September 27, 2022



why it really works

  • The tomato combination is cooked twice, first to melt the sting of the uncooked, tart greens, then once more with the seasoning to additional develop the savory stew base that defines the jollof.
  • It is very important use the correct of rice. On this case, parboiled rice is a superb alternative, because it has the power to absorb the flavorful, well-seasoned stew with out turning into mush.
  • Cooking over low warmth permits the rice to correctly take up the sauce, prepare dinner evenly and never burn on the underside; stirring as little as potential ensures that the rice cooks evenly whereas preserving the grains separated.

Cooking jollof rice, a tomato seasoned rice dish, is a ceremony of passage for a lot of West Africans. For a few years, my very own jollof sport was fragile as a result of I mistook its ubiquity for ease. I had assumed it was straightforward to make simply because I ate it typically, at each celebration, Sunday lunch and every little thing, and so I did not recognize how some steps within the recipe have been essential. I’d rush into making the stew base with out creating sufficient taste, select the fallacious form of rice, and be unruly about my cooking methodology. Some days I ended up with a very good pot and different days I did not. I’ve discovered lots since then and now make persistently scrumptious pots. My largest tip: Sluggish cooking rice is likely one of the primary keys to success.

Pondering {that a} good pot of jollof rice required little ability wasn’t the one incorrect assumption I made. I additionally assumed it was of Nigerian descent, on condition that I grew up there and was a mainstay on the desk. However in 2009, when my curiosity in cooking higher pots of jollof deepened, I began researching West African meals and the way they traveled the world. It was then that I found the roots of this dish within the Kingdom of Jolof, a historic state from the fifteenth to 18th centuries within the Wolof-Senegambian area, on the southern fringe of the Sahara, far west of Nigeria.

Severe Eats / Maureen Celestine


So how did Jollof cross the sub-Saharan coast? Based on James McCann in Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cookingthe Dyula ethnic group, well-known retailers who established commerce routes all through the area centuries in the past, have been liable for dispersing the jollof south of the Sahara, taking them with them as they traveled. Immediately, each nation in West Africa has a model of jollof, every reflecting its explicit historical past and influences. A number of areas past the African continent even have variations that present how far it unfold, significantly by way of the transatlantic slave commerce – crimson rice Lowcountry and New Orleans Jambalaya within the southern United States are each derived from jollof rice.

Jollof can take many various names relying on the area. In his hometown of Senegal, he retains his Wolof names of thieboudienne or ceebu jen, and in neighboring Gambia he calls himself benachin. Malians name it zaame or nsame. In the remainder of Francophone West Africa – Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin and Togo – it’s referred to as riz au gras (“fatty rice” for brief). In English-speaking Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria it’s referred to as jollof.

There are additionally countless variations from model to model. Whereas Senegalese and Ghanaians go for aromatic jasmine rice varieties, Nigerians desire parboiled or transformed varieties, akin to Golden Sella basmati rice, which cooks sooner and is much less vulnerable to batting and clumping. In Nigeria, Caribbean-style curry powder, dried thyme, bay leaf, ginger, and garlic are frequent seasoning components. Distinction this with the favored Senegalese seasoning of rof, a paste of recent parsley blended with different aromatics and utilized in mixture with fermented seafood. A good friend of mine from Guinea, in the meantime, provides recent tamarind to her stew base.

Entire greens akin to carrots, aubergines, cabbage, okra, white candy potatoes and potatoes characteristic in thiéboudienne and different Francophone West African variations, however not within the Nigerian and Ghanaian.

Severe Eats / Maureen Celestine


There are a selection of particulars that work collectively to ship stellar jollof rice, which I’d outline as completely cooked and seasoned rice with an orange-red coloration and separate grains which are neither laborious nor boiled; jollof shouldn’t be creamy like risotto. To keep away from this consequence, I solely stir sometimes to assist the sauce take up with out creating the creamy starch that heavy (risotto) stirring creates. I additionally prepare dinner it over low warmth more often than not. When the warmth is just too excessive, the rice pot cooks erratically and should burn on the base.

A little bit browning on the underside layer of the rice is fascinating although. Jollof rice is historically cooked on the range or over firewood. Overseas, within the diaspora, many West Africans have explored and mastered oven cooking strategies, whereas others have used rice cookers and InstantPots to supply much more approaches. Though the outcomes are comparable, the stovetop and firewood variations are the simplest method to “celebration” jollof, a model that’s outlined by its smoky taste and the presence of a “backside pot”, the crispy, toasted layer of rice that types on (because the identify clearly suggests) the underside of the pot, just like Spanish socarrat. Direct warmth from beneath is simply what it takes to create that caramelized, roasted underlay.

Jollof rice is just not thought-about a aspect dish, however the principle course. It’s typically accompanied by beef, hen, goat and fish (fried, grilled or stewed) or eggs (boiled, fried or scrambled). In Nigeria, it’s served with a salad that appears like an amped up model of coleslaw. It can be served with moinmoin, a steamed dish consisting of peeled and mashed black-eyed beans wrapped within the moinmoin leaves that give it its identify, or dodo—Fried and Ripe Plantains. No less than a number of of those accompaniments are thought-about commonplace.