15/01/2012

West African Jollof Rice

This is a dish that many will take a look at the picture and say, "that's pilaf!" ... or, "that's jambalaya!" ... or, "that's nasi goreng!".

This is a dish you already know how to make.

The blurb, from Wikipedia: "Jollof rice, also called Benachin meaning one pot in the Wolof language, is a popular dish all over West Africa. It is thought to have originated in The Gambia but has since spread to the whole of West Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana amongst members of the Wolof ethnic group. There are many variations of Jollof rice. The most common basic ingredients are basmati rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onion, salt, and red pepper. Beyond that, nearly any kind of meat, vegetable, or spice can be added."

Sounds great! Let's get to it ...

White rice is one of those ingredients that is peripheral to the paleo diet, tolerable, but not ideal. Beyond paleo, Perfect Health Diet authors Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet would call this a "safe starch" and it is with this in mind that I am perfectly happy to include white rice as part of what I would call a paleo+ diet. For a deeper look at this, check out the Perfect Health Diet.

I began with some coconut oil in a skillet. Red palm oil would also be authentic, or as far as I know about West African authenticity, which is not a huge amount by any stretch of the imagination, so ... if you are reading this and screaming at the screen that I'm doing it all wrong, please do get in touch in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

So, I began with some coconut oil and softened some shredded spring onions. I don't know if spring onions are readily available in Africa, but this is a western version inspired by what I'd seen in a video about Ghanaian cuisine.

I dropped a clove of minced garlic in, too, and then a generous spoonful of shito.

Shito? Let's look to Wikipedia again: "Shitor Din, commonly called Shito is the word for pepper in the Ghanaian native language. Whilst the word for pepper is different for each of the Ghanaian native languages, the word Shito is widely used as the name for the hot black pepper sauce ubiquitous in Ghanaian cuisine. Shito sauce consists primarily of fish oil and/or vegetable oil, ginger, dried fish and/or crustaceans, tomatoes, garlic and spices. The blend of spices and fish differs between different regions and villages."

Mine, I bought from Tesco where I found it in and amongst a whole heap of Mother Africa foods and it sounded like a lot of fun! The ingredients list as oil, shrimp and chilli. I have used this before a number of times and find how fish soups with simple greens are made into a stunning meal with a good spoon of Shito. Another time, I'll try just that with fufu balls, but for now, we're making rice.

Careful! This will fill the kitchen with something close to mustard gas! Seriously! Have your rice ready to coat in the cooking oils and some water to pour over within reach.

That's just what I did ... coated the basmati rice in the oils, colour and flavour, and poured over some water. How much? Enough to cover ... and then some. The slow cooking will infuse the rice with the water and flavours, and the water level will be fully absorbed. If you put too little on and the rice dries out before it is cooked, add more water; too much, just cook the rice on for a little longer.

Back to it ...

I also tossed in some shrimp, some peas, some chopped celery and some diced carrot and a generous squirt of tomato puree. Diced tomato would be good. You could add herbs in at point - thyme would be a good choice. I didn't ... the moment passed me by ... but there'll always be a next time.

Lower the heat under the skillet and allow the water to absorb.

It's that simple. Salt to flavour and serve out onto a plate.

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