Let it burn! Five tips for the perfect Jollof rice
Happy World Jollof Rice Day! Wait, you didn’t know it was a thing? World Jollof Rice Day took place on August 22, 2017. There appears to be three camps for World Jollof Rice Day; those that celebrate it on the August 21, those that choose August 22 (more popular date) and those like me who feel everyday should be World Jollof Rice Day!
I cannot recollect my first memory of Jollof Rice but I knew early on that there was a distinct difference between the Jollof at home and the Jollof at the party, and even while your mom rolls her eyes at you not to accept when being offered at a party, you cannot resist. You eat the Jollof and brace yourself to face the consequences at home.
I soon realised that the smoky-flavour was a result of the firewood, and the deliciousness was buried, right at the bottom of the pot. I love bottom pot rice, nod if you agree. While that party flavour may not be exactly replicated in your kitchen with your pristine cooker and non-stick pot, I can share tips – that have helped a lot of my audience who love my recipes – to take your Jollof from 0 to 100!
. Bay Leaf
Some like it; some don’t. I say it is compulsory. I do not trust Jollof that was not cooked without bay leaf. Bay leaf is very fragrant and it tantalises your nostrils. Too much of it will not make the Jollof rice nice, so find the balance. To really get the most of it, I fry it in the oil before I pour in the tomato paste so that it really comes alive.
If you skimp on onion in your Jollof, then you skimp on flavour. Onions brings a sweetness that is almost like sugar, so if you are eating good jollof and not sure why it is so sweet, then know that it is onions. It goes in every process for me. It is found in the stock that will be introduced to the jollof rice while cooking. It is fried along with the bay leaf, and it is also blended in the tomato, pepper mix and depending on how I am feeling, I garnish my cooked Jollof with thin slices of onion right after turning off the cooker. It takes it to another level!
. Jollof Base
The Jollof Base is made up of onion, tomatoes and paprika as the basics, with more paprika than tomatoes. If you like ginger and garlic you can add these. Also, tomato puree is the secret behind my deliciously reddish-orange jollof. This mix is fried together till it becomes fragrant. The ratio of the Jollof base to the rice you use is also important. If you use less jollof base then you will not get the full richness that is supposed to make Jollof Rice, and if you use too much Jollof base, it goes sideways. A tip is always to make the bulk base, and cook with a portion, then add more if you find the need to.
. Steam not boil
I find that Jollof Rice needs steam to cook through. When allowing it to cook in the first phase, allow the sauce to cover the Jollof Rice. When that is dried out, stir the Jollof Rice together so that the sauce and rice gets combined properly, cover the pot with an aluminium foil, then the pot cover. This will allow it to steam till it is done. Jollof Rice needs steam not continuous adding of water.
. Let it Burn!
Oh yes! I don’t use my “good pot” for Jollof. I have a special pot for it. I find that using stainless steel cookware really helps to intensify the flavour of Jollof Rice, almost similar to “party Jollof Rice”. Let the Jollof Rice burn, and get to scrubbing later, it will be totally worth it.