I was talking to one my sisters the other day and she mentioned that she had ordered a book with Nigerian vegan recipes. I was intrigued and being the copycat that I am I immediately ordered the same publication.
It is is written by British Nigerian Zoe Alakija who is a London based art director and food stylist. It’s a lovely book, she has been able to artfully mix recipes and flavours to reflect her rich and mixed heritage. I’ve really warmed to it! Of course the first recipe that I wanted to explore was the jollof rice one. I have tried many iterations of this recipe with varying degrees of success. This one I will add to that list.
I followed this recipe exactly as stated in the book, the only omissions were ‘liquid smoke’, I didn’t have and it was optional to the recipe; bay leaves, I thought I had some, turned out I didn’t and finally I used a tin of tomatoes. I would like to think that it did not alter the taste too much. What I did put together, I felt, tasted amazing. Something I would not be ashamed to serve up at a party or any other gathering. It wasn’t that difficult to make when you think about it as various stages i.e. making the tomato based sauce, adding the rice and preparing the garnish.
Roughly chop the plum tomatoes, red pepper, Scotch bonnet and 1 red onion, then tip into a food blender or food processer an blitz until smooth. Set aside.
Heat the 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium saute pan or casserole dish over a medium heat. Thinly slice 2 red onions and add them to the pan. Cook for 15 minutes until golden. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute more. Add the spices, stock cube, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute more.
Squeeze in the tomato puree and add the liquid smoke, if using, then stir well. Add the blended tomato and pepper mixture. Bring to a simmer, then cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and cook for 20 – 25 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Meanwhil, parboil the rice. First rinse it really well in a sieve until the water runs almost clean, then cover generously with water in a saucepan. Bring to the boils, cover and simmer for no more than 5 minutes, it should be really firm. Drain the rice and set aside.
When the sauce has had its time, add the parboiled rice and the thyme and bay leaves, then stir well. Cover the pot with aluminium foil to seal in the flavour, pop on the lid and cook for 20 minutes until all the sauce has been absorbed. Resist the temptation to stir, as it can make the rice soggy; the bottom of the pot my crisp a little, but that’s to be be welcomed.
Preheat the over to 200oC/400oF/(180Oc/350oF fan). Heat a drizzle of oil in a frying pan, thinly slice the 2 remaining onions and add to the pan. Cook for 5 – 10 minutes, until softened but with a little crunch. Season and stir through a few of the thyme springs, then set aside.
Put the baby plum tomatoes on a small baking tray, drizzle with oil and season, then roast in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, until just starting to burst.
When the rice is ready, remove it from the heat and let it sit (without stirring) for at least 10 minutes, fully covered. The fluff lighty with a fork. Serve garnished with the softened onions, roasted tomatoes and some more thyme springs.
This rice was very spicy, hot and very tasty. I also made an asparagus salad with avocado dressing that went very nicely with it. All in all, I was really happy with this recipe. The one criticism I have of my creation is that the rice was a little more sticky than I would have liked. I just remember now the 4th omission was using basmatic rice (all I had in the house) instead of long grain rice. I do not know if that would have made a difference. I will experiment the next time I made this rice.
Reference: Afro Vegan, Zoe Alakija, Classic Jollof, page 48