A Taste of Africa: Jollof Chicken & Rice

Mon, Feb 22, 2016 @ 12:51 PM

Getting to know Africa includes experiencing the vastly different - and yummy - expressions of each culture through food.

We love to read Jamie Oliver's recipes because we always learn something from them other than just the ingredients and instructions. Jamie uses food to tell a story - about where the recipe came from, the diaspora of people and the spread of cultures (and therefore their cuisine). He makes food interesting and we follow him closely.

So, although we'd been making this recipe for years and years, we suddenly thought "why is it called Jollof Chicken & Rice". So we turned to Jamie Oliver to find out why! His explanation follows:

"Jollof rice is more of a concept than a recipe, because it’s found in various guises all over West Africa. Its other name is Benachin, which means “one pot” in the language of the Wolof people who invented it – evidently throwing lots of lovely food in a pan and letting the heat do its thing has always been a popular cheat."

Jollof_rice.jpg

Source: Creative Commons, Labeled for Reuse

The Wolof people ruled in what is now known as Senegal (1360 to 1549). They were quite powerful and wealthy and before their empire disintegrated, The Wolof traded with Europe. Before their kingdom disappeared, The Wolof spread through travel, trading with others and conquests.

senegal.gif

Source: Creative Commons, Labeled for Reuse

As a result, Jollof Rice is a popular dish in Ghana - over 2,000 km from The Wolof homeland in Senegal. It is also found in Nigeria and Cameroon. This "spread" of the recipe has resulted in varying ingredients but the basic recipe has stayed pretty much the same.

Jamie Oliver often says that "the devil is in the detail" and recommends using the best ingredients you can find and ensuring you use long grain rice. Jamie's recipe is amazing - we highly recommend checking it out!

Here's an interesting fact! The word Ghana means “warrior king”, so they can probably stand the heat of the Scotch Bonnet Pepper often used in this delicious dish.

Our family recipe doesn't include a Scotch Bonnet Pepper, although we have prepared this dish with one in the past. We warn you, it does add quite a bit of heat!

We love sharing our family recipes with you but please remember you can search online and find lots of variations on this dish and other terrific African recipes.  An online recipe site we use over and over again is The Congo CookbookMy East Africa Journal is also a great source for recipes.  We just came across a terrific culinary resource - African Cuisine Made Easy. AllRecipes and Food.com are also good resources.  Just a simple web search will turn up a wide variety of recipes for you to try.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 pounds of chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • 1 cup of long grain rice
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 16 ounces of canned tomatoes (we use plum tomatoes and we break them apart with our hands), including the juice
  • 1-1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of thyme (we use fresh and crush it up but you can use ground or rubbed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Brown the chicken thighs in a large frying pan.  When brown remove the thighs and place them aside.
  2. Saute the onion in the pan drippings until onions are translucent and soft but not caramelized brown.
  3. Put the chicken back in the frying pan.
  4. Add the tomatoes (including the juice) and the chicken broth and seasonings.
  5. Don't stir the chicken around while bringing the mixture to a boil.
  6. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for approximately 1/2 hour.
  7. Skim off the fat and then add the rice.  Make sure there is enough liquid to cover the rice. If there isn't add chicken broth or water to cover.
  8. Cover the pan again and simmer for another 1/2 hour. When the rice is cooked, you're done!
  9. Take the bay leaf out and sprinkle the fresh chopped parsley on top.

We serve ours family-style by placing the hot frying pan right in the middle of the table (on some heat protective trivets, of course). Everyone can help themselves to the amount they want. We usually have a little salad or slaw on the side. Check out our recipe for Sambal (a lovely slaw recipe).

Enjoy!  And please let us know how you enjoy this recipe and any creative culinary modifications you make. 

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Mustafa Salemwalla

Written by Mustafa Salemwalla

Mustafa hails from Tanzania and spent 30 years getting to know the magnificent continent of Africa. Hence his passion for African art, sculpture, fashion and empowerment of artisans.

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