When I was a child, my mother often served a dish she called “red rice”, which was basically white rice cooked in tomato sauce. It didn’t occur to me then, but later came to realize that many African American dishes have their roots in the continent of Africa. Joloff rice includes many spices, much more prep, and it tastes so much better than basic “red” rice (sorry, Mom)! My version includes all the basic ingredients of classic joloff—a savory tomato base flavored with onions, peppers and various spices, but I’ve made a few slight changes. I don’t use bouillon cubes, and I swap in jalapeños for scotch bonnet peppers to dial down some of the intense heat; I like spicy not volcanic! As I researched this recipe, I discovered that there is still a great debate among West African countries regarding who makes the best joloff: Nigeria, Ghana, or Liberia. I’m sure my version would barely measure up. But it’s pretty good, if I do say so myself.
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1-inch fresh gingerroot, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup basmati rice
large (5-quart) pot, with lid
measuring cups and spoons
1. Add diced tomatoes, chopped peppers, onions, tomato paste, garlic, and ginger to food processor. Pulse for a few minutes until ingredients are pureed.
2. Heat oil in pot over low heat for a few minutes until warmed, then add pureed tomato mixture, thyme, paprika, oregano, and turmeric. Stir well.
3. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, until mixture has reduced and thickened—about 10 minutes.
4. Stir in the rice, add chicken stock, and salt to taste.
5. Cover and cook for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure rice is cooked through.
NOTES & TIPS
• Make sure to wash hands thoroughly after chopping peppers or use gloves.
• Check the rice around the 15-minute mark. If it’s too hard or dry, stir in 1/4 cup chicken stock. If rice appears too wet, leave the lid off for the last few minutes of cooking.