Jollof rice with kelewele

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Jollof rice is the most famous dish to come out of West Africa and is beloved for its smoky, fragrant and warming flavour. Lerato's recipe contains smoked paprika to recreate the traditionally smoky taste (without the need for any actual fire) and it comes topped with kelewele, a Ghanaian dish of spiced plantain.

First published in 2019

Jollof is a West African favourite that embodies memories of family and togetherness. I created this recipe to mimic the smoky flavours from the embers of the wood fire which produces the tastiest rice (which Nigerians call party rice). With a range of interpretations, from an original Senegalese recipe known as thieboudienne (pronounced cheboujen), to benachin in The Gambia, and jollof in Nigeria and Ghana, this one-pot wonder is enjoyed across the region and beyond. A favourite at home and in my cooking classes, this is a great West African sharing feast with Ghanaian-inspired kelewele (spiced plantains).





Jollof purée

Jollof rice


Begin by preparing the kelewele. Cut about 1.5 cm off the tips of the plantain. Make a lengthways incision into the skin and peel the plantain. Halve lengthways, then slice into 1.5–2cm chips
Prepare a marinade by blending all the remaining kelewele ingredients, reserving some of the thyme sprigs for a fresh garnish. Add the plantain chips to the marinade and leave to sit for 20 minutes while you prepare the jollof
Make a purée for the jollof rice. Blend all the ingredients together, then heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide saucepan and add the purée. Cook on medium heat for up to 20 minutes, until the purée is reduced and drier in texture
Add the dry spices and smoked paprika to the purée, stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rinsed rice, stock, salt and bay leaf
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6
Stir the rice well and add a little more water if needed, to completely submerge the rice. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low
Check the rice regularly, carefully pushing the grains from the sides without stirring in order to check for water. Jollof rice needs to be cooked slowly with lots of steam – only add a little water at a time if it dries out. It is okay if it burns a little, as this will help to infuse even more smoky flavour into the rice, and someone will enjoy eating the burnt bits. Overall, it should take no more than 30 minutes to cook
In the meantime, place the marinated plantain chips on a baking tray with as little liquid as possible. Bake for up to 30 minutes, checking at 15-minute intervals. Once cooked, they should be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside
To serve, fluff the jollof rice with a fork and top with the crisp kelewele. Scatter over a few thyme leaves to garnish

Lerato is one of the strongest voices in African cuisine, known for her vibrant and wholesome food that explores the multiplicity of the rich African continent.

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