Ahead of the worldwide celebration of jollof rice on the 22nd September 2016 as World Jollof Rice Day, I wrote this recipe which defies the West African jollof-mob rules of this dish; “nothing but the traditional contents of jollof must be added to…jollof!” But jollof rice is originally from the Wolof people of Senegal and Gambia who cook this as a heady fishy dish called Thieboudienne (che-bou-gen) As with a lot of foods of the world it travelled and was adapted in various regions. Even Ghanaian and Nigerian jollof is quite different.
If you will like to break some rules while celebrating the basic foundation of it, then give this a go! Start with a rich tomato base, lots of aromatics and add whatever else you please.
Stuffed Pepper Jollof Rice
SERVES 6 – 8 | COOKING TIME: 50 – 60 minutes
400g easy cook basmati rice
For the jollof sauce
3 tbs vegetable oil
2 large onions
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
5cm / thumb size ginger, peeled & grated
2 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
4 medium red bell peppers, stalks removed, roughly chopped
1 large / 2 small red scotch bonnet peppers, stalks removed, halved & deseeded if preferred
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 tsp chilli pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 x 8g / 10g stock cubes
2 tsp salt
For the roasted peppers
6 – 8 medium mixed peppers
2 tbs of vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
fresh coriander or thyme leaves, roughly chopped
- To make the jollof sauce; place a wide pot with two tablespoons of oil on low heat, sweat the onions, garlic and ginger for 3 – 5 minutes. Blend the tomatoes, red bell peppers and scotch bonnet to a fine puree. Add all the dry spices; cumin, coriander, turmeric, nutmeg, chilli pepper, smoked paprika and thyme into the sweated onion mix and stir. Add the puree to the pot, stir and leave to cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Add stock cubes, salt (a teaspoon at a time while tasting), 500 ml of water then stir and leave to cook for a further 20 minutes. Taste your sauce to make sure you are satisfied with the amount of seasoning before adding the rice.
- Wash your basmati rice with cold water until the water runs much clearer, then add it into the tomato sauce, stir gently to cover the rice with sauce. The rice should be fully submerged in sauce with liquid slightly above it, but because the sauce dries up as it cooks, you may have less liquid than needed. In this case, add more water, 200 – 250 ml at a time. If your pot has a steam extractor or if the lid does not close tightly, cover the pot with foil, tightly tucked around the edges of the top of the pot, and then place the pot cover on top of it. This is important as basmati needs little water and maximum steam to cook properly and without turning to mush. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes, while keeping a close eye on the rice to make sure the liquid does not dry out before the rice is cooked. If dry, add more water, a little at a time. Also avoid stirring, to avoid mushy and burnt Jollof. Use a spoon to gently push the rice at the corners of the pot. This will help any liquid bubbling on the surface to stream back down. Do not worry about burnt bits of jollof, it’s a delicacy in itself.
- While the rice is cooking, prepare to roast your whole mixed peppers. First cut them a few inches from the stalk to look like a hat. Remove the seeds inside the pepper and brush both the inside and outer part and also the ‘cap’ of the pepper with your remaining tablespoon of oil. Divide two chopped cloves of garlic, deposit them into each pepper and sprinkle with salt. Place them on an oven tray or baking dish and roast in the middle part of the oven for 15 – 20 minutes at 190c. Keep checking to make sure they don’t burn, as pepper skins burn easily. They are ready once they start to char and shrivel. We don’t want them too shriveled because they will have to hold the rice as a stuffing.
- The wonderful aroma of roasted garlic will call your attention to your peppers. Bring them out of the oven and brush the garlic and oil around the inner and outer part of the peppers. Once the rice is ready, remove the foil, fluff with a fork and scoop into each roasted bell pepper. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander, or thyme and serve as part of a main.
Serve with your favourite stew like my Sexy Chicken Stew here.