Jollof Rice

Jollof Rice

No social function is complete without jollof rice, the poster
food for West Africa, a one-pot meal of chilli-spiked rice with
tomatoes, onion and a hodge-podge of meat or vegetables.

Rumour has it that jollof rice was first cooked up by members of the Wolof tribe in Senegal (Wolof/jollof, get it?), whose empire covered wide swathes of western Africa from the 14th through to the 19th centuries. In some areas, including Gambia, jollof rice is known as benachin, which translates as ‘one pot’. Whether you add okra, plantain or fish comes down to fiercely held regional preferences. Whatever, the colour remains the same: a joyful bright umber.

You’ll need
1 tbs olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and
finely diced
6 large tomatoes, skinned and
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 Scotch bonnet chilli, finely
1 clove garlic, peeled and
finely chopped
1 tsp curry powder
2 tbs tomato puree
Salt and freshly ground black
¼ tsp cayenne pepper or chilli
225g (8oz) long-grain or
basmati rice
1 vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups (500mL) boiling water

Cooking Method
1 Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion over a gentle heat until soft.
2 Stir in the tomatoes, red pepper, Scotch bonnet chilli, garlic, curry powder and tomato puree, then season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and the cayenne pepper or chilli powder. Fry for 15 minutes or until you have a thick pulp.
3 Add the rice and fry in the tomato mixture for 1–2 minutes until well coated.
4 Dissolve the stock cube in the water and add the stock to the pan.
5 Bring to the boil then turn to a low heat and simmer, covered, for 20–30 minutes until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is cooked al dente.
6 Serve with fried plantains or alongside grilled meat or fish. To get the right texture, make sure to use long-grain, preferably basmati rice, and don’t overdo it on the liquid or you’ll end up with a pile of mush.

Tasting notes
Good jollof rice isn’t going to make you cry chilli-induced tears. It’s much more subtle than that – a gentle burn of tomatoes, onions, hot pepper and al-dente rice that builds up slowly enough to warm the taste buds without blowing your head off with intense heat. The best jollof is cooked outdoors in vast iron cauldrons over wood fires, infusing the rice with a delicate smokiness and leaving crunchy scrapings at the bottom of the pan. Eat it in a streetside ‘chop bar’ (local cafe, often in a shack) to add to the authenticity. Come late morning for lunch or dusk before the evening rush, when the food isfresh, the company warm and the radio blaring.

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