Jollof Rice is a popular West African food originating from Senegal with the Wolof people. This one pot rice meal has been adopted across the African continent with different countries having their own versions. This meal has been known to divide countries yet bring them together if need be to defend this tradition. Case in point when Jamie Oliver a couple years ago decided to create his own spin on Jollof, African internet was not impressed and made it very clear to him how unimpressed they were on print and video media across the world. Of course, if you had to go to ‘war’ for any Jollof, it has to be for Ghana Jollof!
Everyone has their own take to this but for me, 4 key spices outside of the main ingredients are key to give it that distinctive taste. Bay leaves, star anise, calabash nutmeg and mild curry powder. Let’s get cooking:
Ingredients (Serves 4-5 people):
- 5 Fresh Tomatoes (can replace with 1 400g can chopped tomatoes)
- 2 tablespoons of Tomato puree
- 2 scotch bonnet pepper or as desired
- 1 big red bell pepper
- Thumb of ginger
- 5 cloves of Garlic
- 2 large onions
- Seasoning (bay leaves, star anise, curry powder, dried rosemary and calabash nutmeg)
- 1 cup Frozen vegetables (optional)
- 1/3 cup of oil (I tend to mix coconut and vegetable oil just because it gives it a certain flavour, I like but use whatever you have)
- 2 cups of mutton stock (I used these because I had this in my fridge but you can use whatever stock you have at hand)
- 2 cups of
Preparation (15 -20 minutes):
- Peel and julienne the onions to be used later. If using fresh vegetables, wash and cut as desired
- Peel and wash onions, garlic, dried rosemary add calabash nutmeg and roughly chop and wash the ginger. Add in water and blend into a paste
- Roast tomatoes, bell peppers, scotch pepper, half an onion and some garlic for 10 minutes in the oven at highest temperature. This process reduced the water content of the tomatoes and the cooking process in turn. Also gives it a toasty flavour. Blend tomatoes and scotch bonnet until smooth. If using can tomatoes you may need to blend this as well if desired. If you want it less spicy, I find that taking the seeds out of the scotch bonnets before blending helps, as the seeds is very potent and hot
- Soak rice in room temperature water. Soaking the rice 9 depending on how long you do it, takes out arsenic (mixture of sulphur and metals) which is toxic and long term exposure is harmful. Rice should be thoroughly washed until the water is clear right before you are ready to use.
Method (45 minutes – 1 hour ):
- Add oil in a pan on medium heat and add in julienned onions. Add in bay leave and star anise to allow it to infuse into the oil
- Once the onions begin to caramelise and soften, add in blended onion, garlic, ginger and calabash nutmeg and stir for another 2 minutes
- Add in tomatoes puree first to fry with the spices for another 2 – 3 minutes. This process cook the tomatoes puree reducing the sourness. This is not proven but I have found that it helps when cook it first
- Add in blended fresh tomatoes and scotch pepper and stir to combine. Leave on medium heat for 10 – 12 minutes to simmer checking intermittently to prevent it from burning
- Add in half the stock at this point and allow to simmer. I only add in salt after the stock has gone in because I want to make sure that there is absolute need for more. Leave for another 5 minutes to simmer and add in curry powder
- Wash rice which was being soaked till water is clear and drain. Add in rice and stir into sauce. I like to allow the rice to fry with the sauce for a bit before adding the last cup of stock. Once this is done, I cover with a napkin or foil, reduce the heat lower and put the lid on. Now the rest is a waiting period, avoid the temptation to keep opening and checking the rice because the steam is what cooks the rice and not water
- After about 15 minutes you can check if it needs a little more water and if you need to use a fork to flake the rice. As I am using frozen vegetables this is the stage I tend to add them because, there is no need to add water as the water from the vegetables will suffice. Leave for another 5 -10 minutes. Also added in some leftover cooked shrimp at this stage. Nothing can go to waste here :)! Guess what your food is ready to be consumed.
- If you however want the party jollof rice, add in chopped onions and tomatoes fresh right when you have turned off the heat allowing this to soften with the residual heat. If you want it a bit smoky as well, you can leave the heat on to allow it to ‘burn’ a bit. Note this step is very optional.
You can pair this up with a great salad, protein and any drink but this definitely goes some baby lamp chops and my sobolo.
Photography by @pixelsnbyte