Legend has it, that like all great things ever created, jollof was discovered by accident. A Senegalese woman accidentally poured rice into her stew and what we know today as jollof was born.
It sounds like a really simple recipe actually. Make a basic tomato-based stew, with whatever protein you fancy, add in your rice, some 25 min or so later, you have jollof. But not so easy people! As a connoisseur of jollof, I can unequivocally tell you that not all jollof is made equal.
First there are regional differences; Senegal jollof is different from Ghana jollof which is different from Nigeria jollof. Differences stem from how tomato-ey the stew is, to the type of rice used. Nigerians tend to use Uncle Ben’s rice, according to my unscientific research, while Ghanaians prefer long-grain rice.
Then travelling around the world, I’ve found that especially in Spanish-influenced cultures, versions of jollof also exist. Spanish rice, and paella have similarities to jollof – rice cooked in a flavorful tomato-based sauce. My recent trip to Barcelona had me searching for Senegalese jollof but to no avail. Instead, I found wonderful paella place that satisfied my craving just fine. Bomba rice, a short-grain variety, is primarily used in making authentic paella, and the paella we had was made to order, right out of the oven!
Here goes my own take on jollof, ala Paella. Hope your version tastes as good as this one did!
The base stew is the first factor that could make or break your jollof. You’ll need tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger to start with. How much of each ingredient you put in depends on your flavor palette – I used 4 vine tomatoes, half of a medium-sized yellow onion, 3 cloves of garlic and about a teaspoon of chopped ginger.
Unfortunately for me, my American blender did not take particularly well to the German wattage, so seconds into pureeing, it went kaput on me! I ended up with huge chunks of the vegetables versus the smooth puree I was hoping for. I still went with the flow.
I like to use bacon to give my jollof a bit of a smoky essence. Completely optional, but it makes a big, nice difference. Bacon was obtained from a German marketplace, and I chopped up 2 thick slices to use.
Cut up 2 medium-sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts (healthy chicken to counter the bacon goodness!), and marinated for 2 hours in olive oil, oregano and spicy red pepper flakes.
Transfer into a deep baking dish (I line with aluminum foil for easy cleaning later), and then add basmati rice. This is another point where things can get dicey. Rice-sauce ratio could determine how great (or not) your jollof turns out to be. Too much rice, and your jollof turns out dry. Too little rice, and jollof is soggy. Too little sauce, leaves you with pale-looking rice; too much sauce – soggy and paella-like rice, not jollof. Start with a cup of rice, and about half a cup of water, the sauce will have liquid to soak up the rice too. Generally speaking, two part of water to one part of rice should suffice.
4 medium sized tomatoes
½ medium sized yellow or white onion
1 tsp chopped ginger
2 cloves of garlic
2 slices of bacon
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Spices to marinate/taste: oregano, red pepper flakes, habanero pepper
Food processor or blender
Medium-sized ovenproof dish
Non-stick wok/frying pan
Prep time: 25-30 min
Cooking time: 75 min