Tuesday, 1 September 2020

The Best Baked Jollof Rice Recipe

 Happy new month folks! Hope you're doing well, happy and thriving.

World Jollof Rice Day was a couple of weekends ago on the 22nd August. The day after I had the sudden  urge to make baked jollof rice. I've seen several versions of it shared online on Instagram, Facebook and a handful of West African food blogs. Without following a recipe, I was able to freestyle the one below and honestly I'm not mad at the results. I strayed from convention in terms of some of the oils and spices added. For instance, curiosity made me wonder what a generous dash of sesame oil would bring to the table. I imagined that adding cinnamon would add a warm, more complex note to the flavour profile. It was particularly satisfying to add my home-grown lemon-thyme straight from the garden. Shop-bought sprigs of time will provide the same effect.

As I was cooking for the whole family, I made a huge batch - 5 cups to be precise - and so it took absolutely ages to cook. Great if you have a lot of time on your hands, are cooking ahead of a later event or you're not particularly ravenous. Otherwise, grab a book, catch a couple episodes of your favourite show or go for a walk as you await your jollof rice masterpiece. If you're not feeding a small army, then the rice can be packed up and frozen as part of your meal prep for the week.

It's oven-baked so you should expect some of the rice (particularly at the top) to dry out a little bit. It will add a bite to every forkful but it is not at all unpleasant. The ratio of fluffy, soft rice to al-dente rice is pretty perfect. 

The red onions caramelise beautifully in this dish, adding some sweetness to balance the spice. I just had to mention this point because it was perhaps my favourite part of the whole thing!

I used golden sella basmati rice and would highly encourage you to use the same for this recipe. No regular long-grain or basmati, please, otherwise results may vary wildly. 

I created a short video reel of the process, which has so far garnered over 10,000 views (wow!). You can check it out here! Just be sure to come back and try this recipe :)


Ingredients
(serves 8-10)
- 1 tin plum tomatoes
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper
- 3 red onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp palm oil (optional)
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp fennel seeds (plus extra)
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- salt
- 2.5 cups water
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- sesame oil


Method

1. Rinse and drain your rice and set aside.

2. Place the tinned tomatoes, red pepper, scotch bonnet pepper and 1 roughly chopped red onion in a blender and blend until smooth.

3. Finely chop one red onion and the garlic. Heat some coconut oil (as much or little as you care for) in a large saucepan. Add the palm oil for an extra depth of flavour, or skip it altogether. Add the chopped onion and garlic to the oil, sauté for a minute or two until it softens. Add the blended tomato mix, along with the curry powder, dried thyme, fennel seeds, cinnamon, vegetable stock cube and salt to taste.  Stir well. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add the washed rice to a large baking dish (approx 11 inches). Pour over the cooked tomato stew, along with 2.5 cups of water. Mix well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning (you may need to add a tiny bit more salt for taste if necessary). Slice the final red onion into rings and arrange over the top. Sprinkle on a small handful of extra fennel seeds. Top with the sprigs of fresh thyme and drizzle a generous amount of sesame oil over the top.

5. Cover the oven dish tightly with some foil. Bake in the oven for 1 hour 45 minutes at 180 degrees C until the rice is cooked all the way through. I recommend stirring the rice halfway through the cooking time and adding a bit of extra water if it's too dried out.




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