It has been buzzing for a while: jollof, a traditional rice dish from Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, among others. In any case, West African cuisine has been tipped as an emerging trend for a few years now. High time to pay attention to this.

Jollof, of jollof rice, is sometimes called the paella of West Africa. There are, as is usually the case with such core dishes, many recipes in circulation. There is even talk of a yollof war between Ghana and Nigeria, in which both countries claim to make the one and only and then of course also the most delicious yollof. But the basis is always a sauce of stewed onions, tomatoes, garlic, peppers and spices, in which rice is cooked.

Sometimes, as with a paella, meat or fish is also added to the pan. But just as often they are prepared separately and served alongside. I once made a jollof recipe from the book for a friend with Ghanaian roots Caribbean and African Cookery by Rosamund Grant, where I first had to stew chicken in a sauce of onion and tomato with dried shrimp, after which that sauce had to be scooped off to cook the rice separately. I wrote about it in 2008 and the recipe can still be found in the online archive of NRC: ‘Goat’s tail, aunt?’

The base for today’s recipe is out The Groundnut Cookbook. But I got it pretty good. I made the quantities more manageable, tempered the dose of garlic and chili pepper and left out the palm oil. We had grilled drumsticks with it, which I had rubbed with the same spices as the sauce. Something fresh – like cucumber in a sweet and sour dressing of vinegar, sugar, salt and a finely chopped chili pepper – and your feast is ready.

jollof rice (4 people)

1 bulb of garlic, cloves peeled;
3 tbsp sunflower oil;
2 red peppers, diced;
1 large onion, finely chopped;
1 red lombok, finely chopped;
1 tomato, finely chopped;
½ tsp dried thyme;
¼ tsp ginger powder;
¼ tsp cayenne pepper;
a pinch of smoked paprika;
2 tsp concentrated tomato paste;
250 – 350 ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock);
300 g basmati rice;
1 red Madame Jeanette pepper

rub the garlic cloves with a pinch of coarse sea salt in a mortar to a puree.

heat oil in a large, heavy pan and fry the onions and peppers over high heat for 5 minutes.

joint the garlic puree, lombok, tomato, spices and 1 tsp salt. Let it sauté for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring.

joint Add the tomato puree and cook for another minute.

Schenk Add 250 ml chicken stock and puree with a stick blender until smooth. Pour the sauce into a measuring cup. You need 600 ml. Add additional broth if necessary. Pour the sauce back into the pan and bring to the boil again until it bubbles.

Sprinkle Pour over the rice and stir briefly so that the rice is evenly distributed. Put a lid on the pan, turn the heat to low – use a simmering plate if necessary – and let it cook for 10 minutes.

stir again, again making sure that the rice can cook evenly. Cook, covered, for another 10 minutes. Stir again and cook, covered, for another 10 minutes.

Sets Turn off the heat, lift the lid one more time and place the Madame Jeanette pepper on the rice – this way it gives off its aroma but not its heat. Cover again and let the rice steam undisturbed for another 15 minutes. Remove the lid and let the rice stand for another 5 minutes.

Fluff then toss it through with a fork. The jollof rice is now ready to be served.