What can I say about jollof rice? Or is it jellof rice? Or benachin?
All across West Africa there are fierce debates about the origin of this dish, as well as about it’s ‘authentic’ ingredients. Different countries add in ginger, garlic, paprika, peppers, carrots, sweet corn, beans, cabbage, curry powder, nutmeg. Some even put chicken and fish in it, but in Sierra Leone, it tends to be vegetarian. You name it, it can be in it. I have eaten many versions of this but even I almost fell out of my chair when I saw jollof rice with okra in it.
Wherever it originates, whatever is put in it, however it is cooked, we all agree on one thing. No special occasion is complete without this traditional dish. Firewood is lit well before dawn under huge pots whilst piles and piles of onions, chillies and other accompaniment are prepared. Dozens of cups of jollof rice are cooked in anticipation of it being the main dish at festivities. Four dozen cups of rice to be precise in my childhood home on Christmas day and New Year’s Day too. Why so much? Because during the celebrations, everyone visits everyone else’s houses, and when they leave, they’re always given some food to take back with them. So throughout the day, there are always take-away containers being filled to the brim with the rice, stew, plantains, coleslaw and more.
The base of this dish is rice and tomatoes to which everyone adds in their own ‘authentic’ ingredients. Mine, well coconut. I love how the tomato and coconut flavours blend together to produce a fragrant and gorgeous coloured rice and that tastes divine. Whenever I cook this I tend to have a bowl of it for breakfast the next day, then lunch, then supper. I think you get the drift.
Well, here is my version of this traditional jollof rice from Sierra Leone. It is gluten free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans. So try it and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to let me know your ‘authentic’ jollof rice recipe.
- 1 large onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 tbsp tomato puree (or to taste)
- 600g (3 ¼ cups) basmati rice
- 400ml coconut milk
- 750ml water (3 ½ cups)
- 1 jumbo cube (optional, see notes)
- Salt to taste
- Finely slice the onion and garlic cloves.
- Heat the oil in non-stick pan and add in onion, garlic and bay leaves and 4 tbsp of water, stir and fry for about 5 minutes.
- Add in tomato puree and fry for about 30 seconds.
- Then add in rice and stir constantly until rice is coated with tomato puree.
- Transfer the rice mixture in to a rice cooker and add in coconut milk, water and jumbo cube (if using).
- Mix well and adjust seasoning.
- Cook according to your rice cooker instructions.
- About 10 minutes into cooking give the rice a very good stir to make sure all the tomato is well mixed in.
- When the rice has cooked and the rice cooker switches to the keep warm setting, let it rest in this setting for about 10 minutes.
- Then open the cover of the rice cooker, fluff up the rice and leave uncovered for about 5 minutes before serving.
Add in scotch bonnet or chillies if you would like some heat.
Jumbo cubes (and Maggi cubes) are stock cubes used to flavour food in West Africa. They can be bought in shops selling ethnic foods. If you don't have these you can substitute the water with some stock.