“A recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe“
– Thomas Keller
I love my mum!
My mum, like most terrific mums, taught me a lot of things – one of which was to make the very famous and very delicious Nigerian Jollof rice. Creating (I choose my words carefully) Jollof rice is like creating a Mozart symphony. One needs to know what instrument (spices) to use and when to ‘cue’ them in.
When I was younger and still in primary school, coming back home to the whiff of fresh curry leaves, various spices, mackerel and that distinctive smoky scent always sent my heart racing and my tongue watering like Niagara Falls. That’s because I would instantly know what was coming.
A hot, spicy and very delicious plate of Jollof rice. Yummy!
My mum, you see, is an excellent cook and considering that I’ve learnt at her feet since I was about 7 years, I think it is safe and alright to share our awesome recipe with you. So, whip out those pots and pans, don your aprons, prepare your workstations and let’s go a-cooking.
- Rice – 3 cups
- Salt – 1 ½ tsps (I use So-Low 50% less sodium salt)
- Medium curry powder – 1 tsp
- Season-all (herbs & spice blend) – 1 tsp
- Dried Rosemary – ½ tsp
- Ground Coriander – 1 tsp
- Ground Cayenne Chilli pepper – 1 tsp (optional. I always like my food spicy so I jazz it up!)
- Scotch bonnet – 3 (if you have low tolerance for spicy, you may choose to use 1 or none)
- Grated nutmeg – ½
- Tomatoes – I used 6 sliced salad tomatoes
- Onions – 2 (chopped)
- Carrot (sliced) – 1 (optional)
- Knorr cubes – 2 (You can get this from an African store)
- Maggi cube – 1 (You can get this from an African store)
- Fresh Parsley
- Ginger – finely chopped
- Garlic – 4 cloves, finely chopped (P.S – I love garlic and ginger!)
- Extra Virgin oil – ½ cup
- Red bell pepper – (I found one lying around)
First, chop or dice the vegetables and fresh spices and set aside as shown in the photo. Cooking with my mum was chatting time, or more correctly gossip time, so there was never a dull moment in the kitchen.
I made my own stock from the chicken in the photo. I will share the recipe soon in a coming post.
PREPARING YOUR RICE
Pour about 1000ML of water into a cooking pot, add your rice and boil over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes. Parboiling helps to remove excess starch in the rice grains thereby making it easier for your body to digest. After about 5-6 minutes, remove the pot from heat, drain the hot water (with a sieve of course), rinse and drain twice with cold water to prevent the heat from continuing the cooking process. Remember the aim is to remove excess starch NOT boil the rice through. Then set the rice aside in a bowl.
Just rinse rice with warm water to remove excess starch.
MAKING THE JOLLOF SAUCE
- Pour the oil into a pot and start cooking at medium heat. Then, add your chopped ginger and garlic and allow to cook for 2mins (remember to stir).
- Add in your sliced tomatoes. I noticed some left-over tomato puree in the fridge, tossed this into the pot and allowed to cook for about 5mins. Tomato puree has a tangy taste so I would advise you allow it cook for some time to get a more consistent flavour in your sauce. Hence, the 5mins.
- Add your ground spices and let this cook for 3mins.
- Next, add your chopped onions and parsley leaves and allow to cook for 2mins. My mum would often use fresh curry leaves picked from our garden or dried bay leaves. I have discovered that fresh parsley is equally as effective as my mum’s preferences. Nothing beats the scent and flavour of fresh spices I tell you.
- Add about 500ML of water and allow to boil. Remember you do not need so much water at this point as the rice is parboiled which reduces the time needed for it to cook completely.
- Add your parboiled rice and get ready for a taste of heaven. This should take about 15-25mins. You may need to add more water (about 50-100ML) if the rice is not well cooked by this time
I must say at this point, my kitchen smells divine!
By now, you may have already begun to imagine yourself nesting comfortable into your sofa, a plate of hot delicious food in one hand and a glass of lemonade in the other. Not to worry! You are almost there.
Now add your sliced vegetables; carrots, red bell pepper and spring onions into the pot and allow to cook for about 30secs. I cook this over low heat to retain some freshness in the vegetables.
I learnt from my mother that you can make the most boring thing exciting. All it takes is a little imagination and maybe a little scavenging and voila! You may have a work of art!
With this in mind, I decided to use my imagination with the following I found around the kitchen;
- Lemons (sprinkle this on the onions for a milder taste)
What can I say? A plate of Jollof rice a day, keeps all your worries at bay.