I had my first taste of authentic joloff rice in a West African restaurant many years ago and I’ve been trying to duplicate it ever since. My New Jersey-born mother made what she referred to as “red rice” when I was growing up which was probably an Americanized adaptation, although hers wasn’t quite as flavorful. My version shares all the same basic ingredients of joloff—a savory stewed tomato base, onions, and peppers. But I swap in jalapeños for the scotch bonnet peppers to dial down some of the intense heat. Even with that change, this dish is pretty close to what I remember. So close, in fact, that I often enjoy a big bowl of it with no meat or other sides.
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, chopped
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
1/2 cups basmati rice
ground black pepper
large (5-quart) pot, with lid
measuring cups and spoons
1. Add diced tomatoes, chopped peppers, onions, 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, minced garlic, thyme, paprika, oregano, and turmeric. Stir well.
3. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has reduced and thickened—about 10 minutes.
4. Add stock and stir in rice. Add salt and pepper 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.