Jollof Rice-An Ultimate Guide (B)

Hmmmm......I wonder, is there really a perfect Jollof Rice Recipe? (Read my other post on Jollof Rice-An Ultimate Guide (A))

Funke Koleosho's Jollof Rice - An Ultimate Guide

The outcome of a recent survey concluded that we all like to enjoy our Jollof rice in different ways. Some prefer the traditional spicy taste with a characteristic smoky flavour imparted by the cast iron pots in which it has been cooked. Others like a moist and semi-mushy consistency while others prefer an al-dente style with the grains not sticking together.

The truth is, there is no perfect Jollof rice recipe because, based on this survey, perfection is very relative and is an individual thing. That said, flavours and tastes put aside, there is still the need to get some basics right, i.e. the starting ingredients, without which you CANNOT make Jollof rice!

Variations: Traditionally cooked in a cast iron pot over an open wood fire, Jollof rice can now be cooked using different equipments and methods, examples; cooking in a deep base pot or stock pot over an electric or gas stove, cooking in an oven in a casserole dish or even in an electric rice cooker. I have also seen it being cooked in a microwave oven! Trust me, the resultant dish from each of these methods all differ like chalk and cheese, as you would expect.

Ingredients: The basic ingredients without which you cannot have Jollof rice are obviously, rice, tomatoes, onions, peppers and some fat/oil. After these come the spices and condiments which help to develop tastes and flavours. From my very varied experience of cooking, I would say that the key to preparing a delicious Jollof rice dish lies in the following:

* The use of good quality stock (chicken, beef of vegetable stock).

* A good blend of aromatic spices and herbs (such as curry powder or cumin, nutmeg, pimentos, fresh thyme instead of dried, bayleaf etc)
* The quality of rice used (easy cook long grain or Basmati rice are preferred).
* The pepper to rice ratio (this is actually quite important for taste and colour development in the dish. 

* Too few red peppers or too much rice will result in a pale looking dish without much taste, and would require the addition of stew/red pepper sauce to bring out the taste).
* To some extent the utensil used is also key (in terms of heat distribution during cooking which could mean that some part of the rice is burning while the other part is still uncooked).
Get these key things right and you are most certain to achieve an excellent result; a moreish tasting and flavourful dish with an aroma that just lingers on and on!

Below is my every-time recipe for Jollof rice (Nigerian style; I say that because the Ghanians and Senegalese have their own competing versions!). I would encourage you to try it and let me know how you get on. By all means, adjust the ingredients and put your own spin on it.....

Jollof Rice - An Ultimate Guide

What You Need:
2 cups (500g) easy cook basmati rice (Soak rice for about 10 minutes and rinse to remove excess starch. This will also reduce stickiness when cooked.)

4 large plum tomatoes or 1 can of plum tomatoes

1 large sweet red pepper, remove stalk & seeds

1 scotch bonnet (yellow), remove stalk & seeds (optional)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

5 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 teaspoons freshly milled or ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon of ground pimentos

A small piece of ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 cups of good quality chicken stock

1 medium size onion

3 serving spoons of butter (not margarine)

1 crayfish flavour seasoning cube or 1 tablespoon of ground crayfish (for that traditional taste) optional

1 teaspoon of smoked paprika to create the traditional smoky flavour (optional)

1 serving spoon vegetable oil

Freshly chopped chives (to garnish)

Salt to taste

Some hot water

What to do
Blend the tomatoes, pepper, scotch bonnet (if using) and onion in a liquidizer. Simultaneously, gently heat the oil in a large pot and add the fresh thyme, nutmeg, pimentos, garlic powder and curry powder. Allow the spices to infuse for about 2 minutes then pour the blend. Now add the chicken stock, one cup of hot water and bring to the boil. Pound the ginger, add and stir. Also add the tomato paste and allow to boil for 3-5 minutes under high heat.

Turn heat down and slowly introduce the washed rice, stir in. Add just enough hot water to cook the rice, cover pot first with a sheet of foil paper and then with the pot lid. Allow to steam for about 10 minutes. 

Open pot and check if rice is cooked. Add more hot water if required to cook the rice till soft. (To avoid over coking the rice, add a little quantity at a time). When all water/moisture has evaporated, gently stir rice avoiding scraping the bottom of the pot. Crush and sprinkle the crayfish cube or the ground crayfish. Stir well to distribute seasoning, then taste for salt, (use more or less crayfish depending on preference). Add the butter and stir in. Cover pot tight and simmer for a further 5 minutes to allow the flavours develop.

Jollof rice is typically served with fried chicken and fried plantain. You can vary this by serving with stewed fish or meat and steamed vegetables or other exciting side dishes like moin-moin, mashed up beans or a nice crisp salad. 

Vegetarian option: cook with vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. Serve with steamed mixed vegetables.

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