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Lerato’s stuffed pepper jollof rice

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Lerato 1What can I say that has not been said about Jollof rice? This one-pot dish of rice, tomatoes and peppers has been subject to battles of authenticity between Nigerians and Ghanaians, with countless memes that have spread like wildfire on the internet. Even Jamie Oliver, the popular British TV chef, was severely criticized by the Jollof loving community for his creative version. Why does this wonderful dish need to be claimed and why are we so sensitive about its authenticity?

Your great grandmother did not create the recipe, and neither did mine, or perhaps she did, with my cooking genes who knows? It has been suggested that the real origin of Jollof is from the Wolof people of Senegal and Gambia. Someone also came up with the brilliant bonkers idea to celebrate the 22nd of August as World Jollof Rice Day. And so like the rest of the food universe, I too will be feasting on Jollof, one as inauthentic as ever and to add insult to injury I’ll be eating it with lots of stew and chicken, as seen in my previous sexy stew recipe. If like me, you are more inclined to go against the grain, do try this recipe. I love roasting vegetables and it does not get better than stuffed roasted pepper, crunchy, spicy and truly mesmerizing, just how much flavour can be extracted by charring peppers.

Stuffed Jollof Rice & Stew
Feeds 4 hungry tummies
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 50 – 60 minutes
Ingredients
400g basmati rice
For the Jollof base
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ginger, grated
4 large tatashe / red bell peppers
3 red scotch bonnet peppers
3 stock cubes
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp dry pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Sea salt
Fresh Coriander
Roasted Peppers
8 Large mixed bell peppers
Let’s get cooking!

Cooking Jollof rice always starts with a good base. You can blend all your vegetables for a nice paste, or like me, chop them up instead. I like to cook mine in a wide pot so the rice isn’t all pilled up and mushy at the bottom of the pot after cooking.

In a wide pot, heat two tablespoons of oil and add the onions and two crushed cloves garlic. Allow them to sweat for a 5 minutes and then add your ginger, dry spices, stock cubes, chopped or blended peppers, tomatoes and a teaspoon of salt. Stir and allow to cook under medium heat for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the sauce will be drier, now add 500ml of water, stir and leave to cook for a further 20 minutes.

Wash your basmati rice with cold water until it is clear, add it into the tomato sauce, stir gently to cover the rice with enough sauce. Because we are using basmati rice, I usually cover it with cling film or foil before covering with the pot cover, because basmati cooks very well with maximum steam and less water. Turn down the heat and steam for 20 minutes, while keeping a close eye on the rice to make sure the liquid does not dry out. If dry, add more water, a little at a time. Also avoid stirring, to avoid mushy and burnt Jollof. Use a spoon to gently push the rice at the corners of the pot. This will help any liquid bubbling on the surface to stream back down and it will reduce the chances of the rice getting burnt. But Jollof often burns, some even love to eat the burnt bits.

While the rice is cooking, prepare to roast your whole mixed peppers. First cut them in half leaving enough pepper still joined to the stalk, to look like a cap. Remove the seeds inside the pepper and brush both the inside and outer part and also the ‘cap’ of the pepper with your remaining tablespoon of oil. Divide two crushed cloves of garlic and deposit them into each pepper. Place them on an oven tray or baking dish and roast in the middle part of the oven for 15 – 20 minutes at 190c. Keep checking to make sure they don’t burn, as pepper skins burn easily. They are ready once they start to char and shrivel. We don’t want them too shriveled because they will have to hold the rice as a stuffing.

The wonderful aroma of roasted garlic will call your attention to your peppers. Bring them out of the oven and brush the garlic and oil around the inner and outer part of the peppers. Once the rice is ready, remove the clingfilm or foil and scoop into each roasted bell pepper. Garnish with some freshly chopped coriander.

Serve the stuffed peppers with your favourite sides. I love Jollof rice with a 7 minute almost set boiled egg, when it is not perfectly done and a bit sticky. Just looking at the beaming yolk satisfies half of my hunger, maybe a quarter, but it does make me happy. I have also served this with some of that sexy stew I made a few weeks ago. I am told that as the Jollof rules go, “those who eat Jollof with stew have trust issues”, and I do. I don’t trust myself not to go for seconds!
Happy World Jollof Rice Day! X

Make this recipe yours by using your favourite vegetables and spices. Share your success with me and other food lovers on social media.

Instagram @lerato_tomato; Twitter @leratotomato


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