WANT TO MAKE A BANG JOLLOF RICE?
Everyone wants Jollof rice that is smoky, rich in colour and most importantly not soggy; this is what is known as the classic party Jollof. However, I found out that many people struggle with cooking it for themselves. So, while my colleagues were bagging numerous certifications from online courses in 2020, when we were stuck at home due to the COVID 19 pandemic, I was on a mission to perfect my Jollof Rice making skills.
This article is a compendium of the lessons I have learnt from myriad YouTube videos and of course, countless personal trials. You will come to understand that making the perfect Jollof rice is not talent, you just need to follow a few principles.
The basic ingredients you need are; properly washed rice (wash until the water runs clear), onions, cooking oil, tomato puree, blended pepper, curry, thyme, bay leaves, seasoning cubes, salt, water and meat stock.
This is simply the pepper mix you fry at the beginning before adding rice and water. It determines the eventual taste and colour of the rice, so you must pay attention to each step.
To make the stew base, you need tomato puree, chopped onions, blended pepper, cooking oil, seasoning cubes, salt, and spices. You also want to ensure that the pepper fries well enough. A little burning won’t hurt.
For the blended pepper, you need a larger percentage of red bell peppers popularly known as Tàtàṣé to give you that rich red colour. It should be in a ratio of 3:1 with any other pepper of your choosing. Do not forget onions. And then blend everything together. Follow these steps to make a foolproof stew base;
- Heat some oil in a pot.
- Pour in the chopped onions. Pink/purple onions are preferred because they add a unique sweetness to your Jollof. Sauté until you can smell the aroma of the onions.
- Add in your tomato paste and stir. It needs to fry in oil till it becomes a darkened red colour. This should take about 10 to 20 minutes.
N.B: There are different brands but De Rica in particular gives that pop of red as compared to the rest.
- Pour your blended pepper into the mix. Throw in some seasoning, salt and spices of choice. You know it is done frying when you see small openings in the stew and some oil float to the top. Add meat stock and/or water and mix. Let it boil, taste to ascertain if the seasoning is enough before adding rice.
Or you could simply pour the already washed rice into the tomato base, mix well and then add water/meat stock and mix again before leaving it to cook.
This is perhaps the most critical aspect of cooking jollof rice. For jollof rice to cook well, you need steam and not necessarily a lot of water. You need to trap the heat inside the pot and let the steam cook the rice, using a tight lid pot and/or foil paper. The conundrum then lies in the exact amount of water to use.
A principle I have found to work generally, is to start with water that is a little above the level of rice. Adding so much water at the beginning or intermittently, only serves to make the rice soggy and reduce the intensity of the flavour you have built in the initial tomato base. To trap in maximal steam, use a foil paper to cover the pot and then cover with the lid.
High heat will dry out the water and burn the rice very quickly without softening it. You are then forced to add excess water at various intervals while cooking which, would result into soggy Jollof. Hence, a low widespread heat is recommended. Hot plates are good for this, where you can set it to a low heat. If you must use gas, use a wide burner but turn down the heat.
What is jollof rice without the bottom of the pot burnt part? If your Jollof rice does not burn, it is not yet the authentic party jollof except of course, you decide to go the baking route and cook it in the oven, but we shall not delve into that. So do not worry, because your Jollof Rice will burn!
The entire cooking time for Jollof rice should be 45 minutes to an hour. Try not to stir too often while the rice is cooking. When it’s done, fluff it with a wooden spoon and then leave in the pot for about 10 minutes before dishing.
With these few points of mine, you will not have to worry about cooking soggy Jollof rice again. Cheers!