The Origin of Jollof Rice
Call it Jollof Rice, Jolof Rice, Joll of Rice, Djolof Rice, Osikapa Jelof, Red rice or Party rice you are right. Adults and children love this spicy and tasty rice meal. Jollof rice is a favourite meal in the West African region and very popular amongst Nigerians and Ghanaians alike. I do not know a social function in Lagos or Accra where Jollof rice is not served or at least listed in the menu. The origin of Jollof Rice is traceable to the Jollof tribe in the Senegambia region of West Africa. Jollof rice is also called Benachin, which means one pot in the Wolof language.
The traditional ingredients are rice, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, salt, and chili pepper. Other ingredients such as fish, vegetables, meats, ginger and other spices can be added to enhance the taste.
Today, Jollof rice can be prepared in different ways by the various peoples that savor it but the basic ingredients remain the same. One of the common methods of preparing Jollof rice in West Africa is to fry finely-chopped onion, tomatoes and ground pepper and any other optional ground or chopped spices in refined vegetable oil and then add meat stock and cook the rice in this rich mixture so that it absorbs all the liquid.
Jollof rice when cooked has a characteristic red colour from the mixture of tomatoes, peppers and other ingredients. It can be served with fried meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, salad and fried plantain called ‘dodo’ in the Yoruba language.
Very popular in some villages of southern Nigeria is the Osikapa Jelof. This variation is cooked with firewood, though optional. Osikapa Jelof is prepared by frying cut onion rings and fresh tomatoes and peppers in semi-bleached palm oil. Crayfish, dry fish, salt, chopped curry leaves and other spices and broth are added to the sauce and then put to boil. Rice is added to this rich and tasty mixture and cooked until tender. Stir the rice from the bottom of the pot to the top ensuring that the all ingredients are evenly mixed. Osikapa Jelof is served with large chunks of dry fish and cooked vegetables. Believe me, it is hot, spicy, delicious, and finger licking. Just try it out.
The Mexican Jollof rice is yet another type of JR (emphasis mine). The cooking method is as follows:
- Season and cook chicken, meat and shrimp.
- Fry with little oil and set aside.
- Make your Sauce: Chop onions. Heat the oil. When hot, add chopped onion and frozen mixed vegetables.
- Sautee until the onions is cooked.
- Add tomatoes, mixed vegetables, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp seasoned salt, black pepper, green pepper(if you are using any) and 1 cup water.
- Add the chicken, shrimp, meat and spam or smoked turkey.
- Stir, cook on medium for 2 minutes. Remove from stove and set aside.
- Half-Cook Your Rice. You need to cook the rice until it is half done. It should not be raw and it should not be fully cooked. Do not cook it soft or your Jollof Rice will be mushy, (unless you like mushy rice).
- Carefully pour rice through a strainer.
- Rinse with fresh water allowing water to drain from rice. Transfer rice to a large pan.
- Make the Jollof Rice.
- Pre-heat oven to 350. Set timer to 30 minutes. Combine cabbage with rice in a large bowl.
- Mix well. Add sauce, a little at a time, to the rice mixture in the pan. Be careful not to add too much sauce! Your rice should be covered with sauce, but not watery. You may not need to use all the sauce. You can add any remaining sauce later, while baking.
- Mix well and transfer to a large deep 13 x 9 inch aluminum baking pan or 2 large Pyrex dishes (8 x 11).
- Cover and seal with aluminum foil and place in oven. Set timer to 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove from oven. Remove foil covering and carefully stir rice in pan. Replace foil cover and put back in oven.
- Bake another 15 minutes. Remove rice from oven again. Remove foil and test your Jollof Rice to see if it is cooked. If it is hard, add any extra sauce and carefully mix in. If you don’t have any sauce left over, add a cook spoon of water. If you add more sauce or water, cover again with foil, and cook an additional 10 minutes. If not, move to the next step.
- When your rice is fully cooked (firm but not too soft), switch oven to Broil Hi. Remove foil covering, and broil for 5 minutes. This is to brown your rice.
- Stir rice again and broil another 2 minutes. Your rice should be ready now. Remove pan from oven and enjoy your Mexican Jollof Rice with fried chicken, fried plantain and vegetables.