There are few African cuisines that are as intensly flavourful as the West African Jollof Rice. It is a delicious rice dish that is cooked in a rich and vibrant spicy tomato sauce, thereby giving it its signature red-orange colour. It is mostly served with grilled or fried chicken.
Jollof Rice is more than just a dish, it is (dare I say it) a Nigerian way of life! No Nigerian social gathering is fully complete without a large pot of this fabulous dish being served. There are dozens of different variations on how this meal is cooked, depending on regions and personal preferences. This is my personalised take on the (world famous) Nigerian Jollof Rice. I prefer the 'all in' method where the rice is NOT par-boiled beforehand and I find this gives me more control over the final outcome of the rice.
First prepare the tomato sauce. This sauce forms the base of the rice dish and can be prepared up to a week ahead and frozen until needed. Put the tomatoes, capsicum and scotch bonnet in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the oil to a pot, allow it to heat up then add in the chopped onion and fry until softened. Then add the garlic paste and tomato paste. Stir them in and fry on medium heat for 2 minutes. Next add the blended tomato/pepper/chilli mixture, bay leaves, thyme, paprika powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Then turn the heat down, cover and let this tomato sauce cook for about 25-30 minutes until thickened. Keep giving it an occasional stir until it's done.
Now on to the rice. Wash the rice and then rinse off and change the water two or three times. This will get rid of excess starch from the grains. Then soak the rice for about 20 minutes.
Take a big pot, add the 4 tbsp of oil and allow it to heat up. Add the chopped onion and fry until soft. Next add the garlic paste and bay leaves. Then add the tomato sauce that was cooked as described above plus the turmeric powder and cumin powder if you are using it. Mix well. Drain the rice that was soaking and add it into the pot. Stir gently and allow the rice to absorb the vibrant tomato colour and flavour.
For every cup of rice, I normally use one and a quarter cups of liquid/stock. If your rice usually requires more then by all means adjust the liquid amount to what you normally use.
Now add the broth or water (remember to add the stock cubes if you are using water). Add a little salt (depending on how much salt is in your stock). Stir, cover and let it come to a boil. Let this cook on high heat for 2 minutes then reduce the heat to medium and keep cooking it whilst covered until the water diminishes, giving it a stir every now and then to make sure all the rice is cooked evenly and perfectly.
Once you find there is very little liquid left in the rice, reduce the heat to the lowest point possible. Seal your pan by using a tight lid or wetting a kitchen towel and placing it over the pan then placing a lid on top of it.
Leave the rice to continue steaming on very low heat for a good 10 mins. Switch off, open the pot and gently fluff up the rice. Add the 2 tbsp of butter (it gives the rice a beautiful shine and aroma). Serve with accompaniment of your choice. I like serving this dish with some grilled chicken.