Jollof as you may know is the acclaimed National dish of several West African countries. As a Nigerian, I am proudly biased in my love for the Nigerian Jollof. That is not to say the Jollof rice from other countries are not great. In all honestly, there are only two countries from which I have had Jollof, even in their diverse variations. That is the Nigerian Jollof (including the classic Jollof rice, basmati Jollof rice and smoky Jollof rice); and the Ghanian Jollof. The classic Nigerian Jollof is typically made with long grain rice. However, with the influence of Ghana and other neighbouring countries, younger generations of Nigerians have adapted the recipe using Basmati rice. I first came across Basmati jollof rice when I initially moved to London. Basmati is the preferred rice of most younger generations of Nigerians. Reasons for this are that basmati rice is apparently healthier than long-grain rice, that it also tastes better and is fluffier. In my opinion, both rice has their pros and cons.
- Pros – Fluffier, lighter texture and quicker to cook. The theory of it being healthier is one I am yet to confirm.
- Cons – Does not hold to flavour as much as long grain rice does and it can also be a bit drier because of the grains being really thin. Thus not being able to retain moisture.
Long grain Rice
- Pros – Can withstand heat, thus not easily overcooked. Thick grains allows the rice to soak up the moisture and flavours from the sauce. Perfect for making large batches of smoky party jollof rice
- Cons – More starchy grains resulting in sticky rice. High starch content could also mean high calories, thus the theory of it being less healthy than basmati rice.
However, I have heard of other Jollof from Liberia, Senegal and other countries. The Senegalese Jollof (or Wollof) is the legitimate origin of the now popular rice dish. Not to be mistaken for thieboudienne, as I’ve been told by a few of my Senegalese friend is a special dish on its own. I will be trying it and other African recipes in the future. For now, let me share how to make this easy basmati Jollof rice. This was my go-to Jollof recipe during my university days. I would typically use canned tomatoes and mostly dried spices because as a student I always stocked up on pantry items. Rather than fresh produce that would easily go bad if I didn’t use them in a few days. This way was also cheaper and the theory of basmati rice being healthier was an added bonus. Speaking of eating healthier, I also paired this Jollof with some grilled whole sea bream and grilled plantains (the Nigerian name of which is “Boli”). As opposed to the fried plantains (commonly known as “dodo”).
Basmati Jollof Rice with Grilled Seabream & Plantain
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp rock salt
- 2 cups vegetable stock (or 1 bouillon cube + 2 cups water)
- 1 tsp ginger powder (or mild curry powder)
- 1/4 cup sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp tomato concentrate
For the grilled seabream and plantain
- 1 whole seabream
- 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
- 1 garlic clove
- fresh ginger (about the size of half a thumb)
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1 yellow plantain
- Chop the bell pepper, half the onion and put them in a food blender with the garlic, scotch bonnet pepper and can of chopped tomatoes. Blitz until smooth.
- Slice the other half of the onion. Place a deep pot over medium-high heat, add the sunflower oil. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onion, stir and fry until lightly brown.
- Gently pour in the blended tomato mixture, cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and toss in the bay leaf, tomato paste concentrate, dried thyme and ginger powder. Stir, then cover again with the lid and cook for another 10 minutes.
- By now the sauce would have reduced and become thicker. Remove the lid, pour in the rinsed rice, then the vegetable stock (you can also use bouillon cubes mixed with water if that's what you have). Add salt, reduce the heat to medium, cover with the lid and cook for 20 minutes (occasionally remove the lid and stir the rice to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot or burning).
To cook the whole grilled Sea bream and plantain
- Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Wash, clean and pat dry the whole sea bream. Using a knife, make three slits on both sides and place the fish in a baking dish.
- Place the ginger, garlic, coarse salt, and scotch bonnet peppers in a mortar, then grind into bits with a pestle.
- Add the 1 tablespoon of sunflower and mix into a paste (it doesn't have to be smooth). Rub this pepper mix all over the fish, then place into the oven and cook for 25 minutes.
- For the plantains, peel and cut diagonally. place in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil, then rub altogether. Place the sliced plantains piece by piece onto an oven rack, then place them into the oven and grill for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve the rice with oven grilled sea bream and plantain whilst they're still hot.