The Jollof Rice Saga (#JollofGate)

Jollof Rice served with mixed Vegetables

Two days ago, Twitter was on fire with tweets and comments, mostly protesting Jamie Oliver's twist on the much loved West African rice dish - Jollof Rice!

First, I would like to state that I am all for creative and innovative cooking....from my recipes, it is clear that I do not shy away from experimenting with ingredients with the aim to discover/achieve new tastes and flavours.....but even I, can only go so far.... while making my creations, I always bear in mind and show respect for the originality and passion that people hold, for which the dish is known and loved.

I know one thing for sure, West Africans love their Jollof rice. Its the most popular rice dish across the whole of the region! A day would not pass without this delicacy being served either at home or more commonly at events/parties. As one would expect there are many variations of this dish with different regions adding their own spin to adapt the dish, but there is a commonality for this dish...

Nigerian Jollof Rice (Simply made)

What is Jollof Rice
Jollof rice is a rice dish cooked with basic ingredients which include peppers, onions, tomatoes and spices; and of course rice. These are the basic ingredients. Best cooked in good quality chicken or meat stock. Then, depending on region, other items like meat, fish and other vegetables can be added. It could be made quite simply or could be made in an elaborate way with a range of additional ingredients, depending on budget and preferences.

The cooking of Jollof is based on the one pot technique, where all ingredients are cooked in one pot, though added sequentially. If properly cooked, the dish is delicious, comforting and satisfying.

Key Characteristics:
  • Jollof rice has (must have) a bright orange colour, imparted by the tomato and peppers used to cook it, otherwise it is not Jollof! at least according to the West Africans. 
  • Traditionally, the peppers, onions and tomatoes are blended before adding to the rice and are not visible in the finished dish, though additional vegetables can be served with the cooked rice. 
  • There is an expectation of spiciness in the rice though the amount of hot peppers/scotch bonnet chillies used varies. 
  • In the traditional way, Jollof is served and enjoyed in different ways depending on personal preferences. Typically served with a variety of meat, fish and other vegetables especially fried plantain... 


Jamie Oliver's Jollof Rice Recipe
Now going back to Jamie Oliver's Jollof rice recipe, I have gone through the recipe, and as I said earlier, I am usually open to creative and innovative cooking, but I really cannot understand the need to add LEMON to a Jollof rice dish! Its just not a concept attributable to West Africans. Perhaps Jamie was trying to pass off some sort of Paella dish as a variant of Jollof....!

I can accept the used of all the different spices he has added, because I feel if used in proportion, they can actually make the rice more fragrant and add to flavour/aroma, but I am still wondering what the lemon would do to the taste as we know it in West Africa..... I will be trying this recipe out just to find out.....

Twitter #JollofGate
There were loads of comments and tweets concerning Jamie's Jollof Rice Recipe, it became hastage Jollof Gate.... (#Jollofgate). BBC Trending and the Independent websites featured it.

Jollof Rice (served with vegetables and meat)
The comments were mixed but largely a protest against the twist introduced to the dish by Jamie. I think this goes to show the amount of passion West Africans have for their food. I believe also that there were some concerns that a well known celebrity Chef like Jamie could change the world's view of their much loved rice dish and they were not having that.....

I feel the general consensus is, we want to share our food with the world, but please, don't loose/kill the originality...

Check out my post on the Ultimate Guide to making Jollof Rice here.

Jollof Rice (Vegetarian option)

#jollofgate #jollofrice #jamieoliver



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