Jollof is a one-pot rice dish akin in essence to Jambalaya or even Paella (depending on the ingredients you use). It is by far and away West Africa’s most readily available and consumed dish, also known as ‘party rice’ because of its frequent centre-stage role at dinner party tables and banquets.
Believed to originate from the Senegalese dish benachin in the Wolof language or ‘one-pot rice’, there are many arguments between Nigerians and Ghanaians about who makes the best jollof and variations exist in Sierra Leone, Togo, Liberia and beyond. In Cameroon they use coconut milk and in Gambia they bake it. Almost everyone familiar with jollof has their own recipe for it, and nobody else’s version is as good as their mother’s or grandma’s, but the principle is always rice cooked in a spiced blend of tomatoes and onion, which gives it its rich red colouring. What epitomizes Ghanaian jollof for me is the sweet, smoky heat from Scotch Bonnet chilli (giving just enough robust heat to warm the palate without having to reach for a glass of soothing milk) and the distinctive smoky fish flavour from the dried ground crayfish or prawn/shrimp powder. I’ve used chicken here but you can use whatever meat and vegetables take your fancy
2 large onions, finely chopped
olive oil or groundnut oil
6–8 bone-in chicken portions (thighs or drumsticks)
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 large bay leaf
5–6 guinea peppers, crushed
1 Scotch Bonnet chilli, deseeded and diced
2 tablespoons Jollof Dry Spice Mix (see bottom of page)
1 teaspoon crushed sea salt
4 tablespoons groundnut oil or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
500ml (18fl oz) Jollof Sauce
300g (10.oz) basmati or other long-grain white rice
chopped parsley or coriander, to garnish
Shito (Hot Pepper Sauce) or Green Kpakpo Shito Salsa, to serve
* Stage 1
First make the broth. Sweat half the chopped onion in a little oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat, add the chicken, the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, guinea peppers, Scotch Bonnet, 1 tablespoon jollof dry spice mix and sea salt and stir well. Pour in enough water just to cover the ingredients and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4. Remove the chicken from the pan, place on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil or groundnut oil. Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes. Drain the fragrant broth into a jug and reserve for adding to the rice.
* Stage 2
To make the jollof, heat the 4 tablespoons of groundnut or sunflower oil in the same pan you used to make the broth, add the remaining chopped onion and sauté over a medium heat for a few minutes until soft. Stir in the remaining jollof dry spice mix, the chilli powder and curry powder and add 350ml (12fl oz) of the jollof sauce, reserving the rest for adding at the next stage. Then stir the broth into the pan.
* Stage 3
Wash the rice thoroughly in cold water to remove as much starch as possible – I wash it in at least 3 changes of water until the water runs clear – then drain and stir it into the jollof sauce/broth mixture so that it’s evenly coated. Ladle in the reserved jollof sauce without stirring, then reduce the heat, cover the pan with foil to keep in the steam and add the lid. Cook for 15–20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
Stir through with a fork to fluff up the rice. By this stage, your chicken in the oven should be perfectly crisp! Serve the
rice with the chicken pieces on top, scattered with the chopped herbs to garnish, with shito or kpakpo shito salsa on the side.
TIPS If the sauce isn’t hot enough before adding the rice, the rice will soak up the cold water and become soggy.
If you find that the rice is too dry halfway through cooking, top up with additional water, adding a small quantity at a time as needed.
You can make this an even meatier dish by adding lamb, beef or goat, but you can also turn it into a delicious vegetarian dish by adding garden eggs (African aubergines), carrots and peas or other mixed vegetables and excluding the ground crayfish or prawn/shrimp powder from the jollof dry spice mix.
Jollof Dry Spice mix
MAKES ABOUT 190G (6½OZ)
25g (1oz) ground ginger
25g (1oz) garlic powder
20g (¾oz) dried chilli flakes
35g (1¼oz) dried thyme
25g (1oz) ground cinnamon
15g (½oz) ground nutmeg
15g (½oz) ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cooking salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper scant 1 teaspoon dried ground prawn/shrimp or crayfish powder (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place and use within a few months.
This recipe is from Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh