When I was a child, my mother often served a dish she called “red rice”, which was basically white rice cooked in tomato sauce. I didn’t much care for it at the time; it was a little bland. But the first time I had joloff rice at an African restaurant, it occurred to me, that “red rice” was probably the African American version of joloff, and joloff was SO much better. Joloff rice includes many spices, pureed vegetables and much more prep. My version includes all the basic ingredients of a classic joloff recipe—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 or serrano peppers for scotch bonnets to dial down some of the heat; I like my foods spicy, not volcanic! As I researched this recipe, I discovered that there is still a great debate among cooks of West Africa 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
1-1/2 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 simmer on low heat 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.