Jollof rice is the most popular rice across the Coast of West Africa. Spiced, red-orange it is street food, everyday lunch, Sunday rice, celebration food, and everything in between.
The rice grains are stewed and layered with flavor, but emerge at the end of cooking somewhat separate—the goal is more pilau than risotto. Converted or parboiled long grain rice works best because the parboiling process strengthens the grains so they cook in the sauce without breaking down and turning to mush.
Building the stew base is the most important step and involves cooking the tomatoes twice—first, you cook down the mix and reduce it, which blunts the raw edge of the tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Second, you create the stew—a fried, spiced base seasoned with curry powder, dried thyme, bay leaves, salt, and more.
- 3 medium-sized fresh plum or Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
- 3 small red onions, 1 sliced thinly and 2 roughly chopped; divided
- 1/4 of a scotch bonnet pepper, optional
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, beef, or water), divided
- 300 grams stewing cut beef
- 2 teaspoons curry powder (preferably a Caribbean blend), divided
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme, divided
- Salt, to taste
- White pepper, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup neutral oil, divided
- 3 small to medium dried bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, divided
- 2 cups uncooked converted long-grain rice, rinsed
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced, for garnish
- 1 plum tomato, sliced, for garnish
Gather the ingredients.
In a blender, combine the tomatoes, red bell pepper, chopped onions, and scotch bonnet (if using) with 1 1/2 cups of stock or water.
Blend until smooth, about 1 or 2 minutes. You should have roughly 4 to 5 cups of blended mix.
Transfer this mix to a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the mixture is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Prepare the beef by seasoning with 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
Set a separate large pot over medium heat, then add half of the oil. Once warm, add the beef and pan-fry for about 5 minutes, turning so all the sides brown evenly. Remove the pieces of beef, and set aside.
In the same pot you cooked the beef in, add the remaining oil. Once hot, add the sliced onions, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and 1 teaspoon butter, stirring for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the reduced tomato-pepper mixture to the pot, then cover with a lid and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until reduced by half.
Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of stock or water to the cooked tomato sauce. Bring to boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking—salt and curry powder should be the most forward taste elements.
Add the rinsed rice and stir well so each grain is coated.
Add the beef and stir to combine. Cover with a double piece of foil or parchment paper. Place the lid on the pot—this will seal in the steam and lock in the flavor—then, reduce the heat to low and allow it to cook for 35 minutes.
Open the pot, stir the rice, and taste for seasoning. The rice should be cooked through and flavorful. If it isn’t, allow to cook for another 5 minutes or until it is ready.
You can stir in sliced onions, tomatoes, and the remaining teaspoon of butter for additional flavor elements, if desired. Remove from heat and serve hot.
Plate your jollof rice with sweet, ripe fried plantains and Nigerian salad—a mix of coleslaw— for a popular accompaniment.
You can leave out the beef for a vegetarian version, subbing in even more veggies, if desired. Alternatively, you can use chicken or fish in place of the beef.