Saturday, August 27, 2016

Nigeria: Jollof Rice

In my last post, I shared the experience of going to Peckham to eat Nigerian food. My last stop before leaving Peckham was Cafe Spice, located at 88 Rye Lane, London SE15 4RZ, where I not only learned about jollof rice, but also bought it. A small container was 5 pounds, while the larger one was 6 pounds. The rice is priced so that there is basically no option but to buy the larger size, which was fine by me.  

I ate the rice shortly after I arrived home.  The first thing that I noticed when I took the lid off was the smell of burned food! But the rice was not burned - it just had a smoky scent.  Apparently this is common with Nigerian jollof rice.  I didn't mind at all. The color was light red as a result of the tomatoes and Scotch bonnet peppers used to season it.  I could taste some kind of smoked seafood -- either fish or shrimp.  And it was very spicy, which I quite liked. 

I was inspired to try my hand at making my own jollof rice, which I did with a recipe taken from  I had made jollof rice once before but it didn't come out well, at all, and I couldn't understand why until I read this recipe. The secret is to parboil the rice first, which the other recipe that I used did not suggest!  Parboiling involves letting the rice come to a boil for a few minutes and then draining it and rinsing it with cold water.  I did this twice.  The point is to remove the starch from the rice in order to allow the seasonings to penetrate.  It made a really big difference and is a step that I will follow before making any rice dish that calls for additional ingredients beyond just water.  

I should also point out this recipe calls for ground crayfish.  I bought a bag when I was in Peckham. You should be able to find it in any store that sells West African food.

Nigerian Jollof Rice

2 cups (approx. 500 grams) long-grain rice, parboiled
5 Tablespoons tomato paste
4 whole tomatoes

1 red bell pepper
2 scotch bonnets peppers (you can remove some of the seeds if you don't want it to be too spicy)
100ml vegetable oil
About 600ml Meat or Chicken stock
A small onion (sliced)
1 tablespoonful ground crayfish(optional)
½ teaspoon each of Thyme and curry

 2 small Bay leaves (optional)
1 teaspoon salt to taste
1 stock cube
Water, as needed

1. Blend the tomatoes and peppers together.  Place the mixture into a saucepan and boil for several minutes until the excess liquid evaporates.

2.  Add the oil to a separate, large pot and heat.  Add the chopped onions and saute until soft. Then add the blended tomato and pepper mixture and cook over low to medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato loses its tart taste and the oil rises to the surface.

3. Remove about 1/4 of the tomato mixture and set it aside.

4. Add the meat or chicken stock (I used chicken) to the tomato mixture and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 5-10 minutes.  Add the thyme (use fresh if you can), curry, stock cube and salt to taste. Boil for an additional 5 minutes. 

5. Add the parboiled rice to the pot and mix well. 

The liquid should be the same level as the rice.  If not, then add additional stock or water.

6. Add the bay leaves, cover the pot and let the rice cook over a low flame. Cook for about 12-15 minutes. There should still be some liquid.  Add the ground crayfish and the set aside tomato mixture. 

Do not mix.

7. Cover the pot and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.  Now mix.

Your jollof rice is ready to eat. 

I had already made chorizo with onions, mushrooms and peppers and ate the jollof rice with it.  The rice was wonderful! It was seasoned to perfection and the ground crayfish added a pleasant fish flavor to it.  I could easily see this becoming my go-to rice dish.  


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