If you have not yet crossed paths with this dish, just know that it is one of the most delicious preparations of rice you will ever enjoy. Jollof is rice cooked in a spicy, well-seasoned tomato stew. It is a dish enjoyed in several West African countries. Since my background is Ghanaian, I am going to boldly proclaim the recipe written here as Ghanain jollof, though like most recipes, every family or individual has their own set of tips and tricks for making the best version of this dish. All over the internet there is a playful debate about which West African country makes the best jollof. A lot of the debate is between Ghana and Nigeria, although Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cameroon are all contenders in this battle for best jollof.
To me, this version of jollof is absolutely perfect: it’s a bit spicy, and very flavourful without being too saucy or rich. The method and ingredients I have chosen are a combination of recipes by my various family members. One unique feature of this recipe is that the jollof is started on the stove and then baked. In my family, everyone bakes their jollof, and I find it makes for a fool-proof cooking method. This way, the jollof rice cooks perfectly and tends not to burn. Baking results in a nice slightly crispy layer on the bottom that is perfectly browned. In my family we eat jollof with chicken, creamy coleslaw and shito – Ghanaian black pepper made from chillies and dried fish. Delicious!
Aromatics and tomatoes
If you don't have a Dutch oven, this dish can be made in a stovetop pot, then transferred to a deep oven-safe dish for baking.
Blend aromatics and crushed tomato: in a blender, combine onion, scotch bonnet, ginger, bell peppers and garlic with crushed tomato. Blend until smooth, and set aside.
In a Dutch oven over medium heat, add vegetable oil, sliced Spanish onion and bay leaves (if using). Stir with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes on medium heat until onions begin to lightly brown and soften.
Add tomato paste and fry for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Add chopped tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly so it does not burn. Mash them lightly with the back of your wooden spoon.
Add all seasoning: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder, plus bouillon cube and pinch of nutmeg if using, and mix well.
Simmer over low heat, stirring periodically until there is a layer of oil over the tomato stew.
Add the prepared smooth blended aromatics and crushed tomatoes to the Dutch oven.
Cover partially and simmer over low, stirring constantly for 30-40 minutes. Stirring every 2 minutes or so is important because near the end of the 30 minutes, tomato stew can burn easily. You want the oil to separate from the stew yet again. Ghanaians cook their stews for a very long time when making jollof to get the best results.
Near the end of cooking, wash Jasmine rice by rinsing it with water and pouring it off the water, repeat until the water runs nearly clear, this may take up to 4 rinses and pours.
After oil has resurfaced on the stew and the stew has reduced in volume and darkened slightly, taste and add salt to taste.
Add washed Jasmine rice after seasoning. Mix rice into stew thoroughly until all of the rice is coated.
Add 2 ½ cups of water, or until it’s about ½ cm above the rice (be sure not to add any more or the rice will get mushy). Taste and add more salt if necessary. The water-stew-rice mixture should be well seasoned or the jollof rice might be under seasoned.
Cover Dutch oven with tin foil, place the tin foil so that it is touching the rice, then place lid over it.
Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes at 325°F.
After 1 hour 15 minutes, check doneness of rice – it should be well cooked but not mushy. If undercooked, add up to ¼-½ cup of water depending on how hard the rice is, cover tightly with tin foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes. If the rice is overcooked, bake uncovered for about 15 minutes to dry out.
Once rice is cooked to your preference, serve with your favourite protein and sides.