The Great Jollof Rice debate rages on amongst the people of West Africa. Whose is the original? Whose is the best? Is the original the best? Does it matter? There was a social media story last year about a pair of west African students (I believe one Nigerian and one Ghanian) in London who ended up in a brawl over an argument over jollof rice. Clearly, this is an emotive subject for my people :D.
Jollof rice is a one-pot dish, principally with a base of tomatoes, onion and red peppers with fluffy rice packed with umami flavours. That is the basic recipe but there are probably hundreds of variations of that. The word jollof originates from Senegalese language Wolof meaning ‘one pot’. Most believe it originate from either Senegal or the Gambia but its popularity spread across west Africa and probably inspired the Cajun Jambalaya too. Nigerians and Ghanians arguably cook it the most. Being Nigerian, of course I think the Nigerian jollof rice is best.
In Nigeria, Jollof rice is a national dish eaten by every tribe. It is the most popular party/celebration dish. In the southwest, it tends to be cooked in a very spicy tomato base and served with sides of fried/grilled meat, chicken or fish, moin-moin, plantain and some vegetables. In the north, it tends to have vegetable in it and usually some dried fish cooked in too.
I think one of the reasons the husband loves me so is my cooking and jollof rice is one of the dishes he loves. It is one of my favourites and my little girl loves it too so it is a regular on our dinner menu at home. It has always been well received when I have served it to our non-Nigerian guests and I have had a few recipe requests lately. When you google jollof, over 100,000 hits come up so there is no shortage of recipes. Jamie Oliver even dabbled with cooking jollof (probably best not to appropriate such an iconic African dish Jamie!). There is no right or wrong way to cook jollof as long as you stick to the basics and I enjoy the many variations of it. It is the food of (African) gods. Mine is based on my mama’s recipe which always had lots of veggies and on special occasions coconut milk added in. Not heavy on chilli. I love healthy eating so I like to add in beans too. Here is my recipe which serves 4. Hope some of you try it and give me feedback on how it went.
- 1 standard mug of rice (Basmati best but long grain rice easiest for novice cooks)
- 2 standard mugs of hot water
- 175g tomato passata (or tinned chopped tomatoes)
- 1 medium-large onion finely chopped
- ¾ sweet-pointed red pepper finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 3-4 cloves of garlic finely chopped or crushed
- Scotch bonnet pepper
- 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil
- 1 tablespoon of palm oil (you can do it without but more authentic with. Found in African/Carribean food aisle or shops)
- 1cm slice of fresh ginger (or half teaspoon of ground ginger)
- 1 stock cube
- 1 teaspoon curry powder (African/Carribean food aisle)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tin of precooked mixed beans or ½ mug black eyed beans (if fresh, soak in hot water a few hours before needed then boil for 20-30 minutes in lightly salted water)
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- ½ mug of peas
- Large handful of green (runner) beans chopped
- ½ mug of Sweetcorn
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Measure out the rice into a sieve and rinse in cool water and leave to drain on the side.
- Put the oil in a medium pot with a lid on medium heat. Add the onions and fry until starting to soften. Add in the chopped red peppers, garlic and fresh ginger. Fry for a couple of minutes.
- If you like chilli, add either ¼ or ½ half of the scotch bonnet pepper, very finely chopped. Otherwise, throw in a whole scotch bonnet when you add water to the rice, taking care not to break the pepper. That way it gives your jollof a wonderful aroma and you can choose to add a bit of the pepper to your plate later.
- Add in the rice, tomato passata and tomato paste. Add the curry powder, thyme, some salt and blackpepper. Stir until well mixed.
- Meanwhile, put the stock cube in the same mug used to measure the rice and pour over the boiling hot water. Use a spoon to stir ensuring the stock cube is fully dissolved.
- Add the stock to the pot. Add in another mug of hot water.
- Stir all the contents in the pot and put the lid of the pot on. Once it starts to bubble, turn down the heat to the lowest setting. Do not stir at this point
- Check your rice after 10 minutes. When the rice still has a little water in it but has a bit of bite, it is time to add in the carrots, the runner beans and drained cooked beans at this stage. Stir once and lid back on for about 4 minutes.
- Add the sweetcorn and peas. Cook for 1 minute. Check that your rice is fully cooked then switch off the heat and leave to stand for 1 minute.
- Serve with sides of choice. Mine would be a hard-boiled egg, smoked mackerel and coleslaw. Fried golden brown plaintain if you have it.