Jollof Rice
Jollof Rice

Some would say Jollof, or Benachin, Rice is similar to a Latin American Arroz Con Pollo, a Spanish Paella or Korean Bibimbap. Jollof Rice is a West African dish, primarily from Senegal. The ground spices, such as cinnamon, cumin, coriander and chilies, are what make this rice dish unique and spicy. With Africa being a vast continent, one questions if there are additional spices used in this dish that Western culture has yet to learn.

Based on previous experiments, deciding to write a about an African recipe is a daunting task. With my familiarity of Southern African-American dishes, African cuisine should have been innate. Cornbread, Southern Collard Greens, Brazilian Collard Greens, Blackeye Peas and Sweet Potato Pie are all part of the African diaspora. Since, learning how to cook, there’s been a few African dishes made, but most of them are trashed before anyone knew about it.

…What spicy smell? Taste this Walnut-Cinnamon toasted bread with bananas and fresh peanut butter…

The Bok Choy, Shrimp and Peanuts over Coconut Rice is the only African dish made successfully. Even though its a stir-fry, it looks and tastes like a Southeast Asian dish. I’ve tried another West African dish, a Peanut Soup. That was gooey awful. A few years ago, a chicken was roasted with a North African influence. It sounds delicious, for it was made with dried figs, dates, cinnamon, paprika, lemons, chilies, carrots and so forth. The taste of the dish demonstrates a mishandling of complex flavors. Last week, a spicy Harissa Spice mix was made for roasting a chicken. The vegetables in the pan included parsnips, onions and sweet potatoes. Saying the word, “Harissa”, sounds exotic. A whole chicken was roasted with fiery spices, but it was tasteless.

A short email of declining to participate in Africa Day was almost delivered to Casey Angelova of the food blog, Eating, Gardening and Living in Bulgaria. However, I am part of the African diaspora and giving up is not an option. The other half of the Harissa spice mix was placed in the freezer. Let an experimental recipe burn once, maybe twice, but by the third time–actually a few times–a delicious dish was enjoyed. Using the Harissa spice mix, sparingly, as a seasoning for the chicken, Senegalese Jollof Rice was made. Perhaps, it was the familiarity of Latin American rice dishes that helped. The original recipe had egg added toward the end, similar to that tasty Korean rice dish, Bibimbap, that’s cooked in a black stone pot. Bibimbap means “Mixed Rice” in Korean. In the Senegalese Wolof language, Jollof means “One Pot.”

When it was presented, it was truly a one-pot meal made for quite a few people. Jollof Rice is made for Senegalese festivals, ceremonies and special occasions. It was the appropriate dish celebrating the dawn of a new culinary skill.

Africa Day 2010
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Joloff Rice

1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 chicken sausages with lamb castings removed*
1-3 lb. chicken, cut into 10 pieces, seasoned with Harissa†
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 ground caraway
1/2 smoked, Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 medium or 1 large red onion
1 green pepper, diced
2 to 3 celery stalks, diced
2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
10 tomatoes, chopped or 1-28 oz. canned Plum tomatoes, chopped
2 jalapeño chilies, seeds and ribs discarded, finely diced
1-1/2 cup long-grain white Basmati rice
2-1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup red wine
4 scallions, sliced thin; plus more for garnish
1-1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed or if using fresh, blanched
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add chicken and brown on both sides. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

2. Drain pot of excessive butter/liquid, but leave 2 tbsp. of oil. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, spices and the cinnamon sticks. Stir for 30 seconds. Add green pepper, celery, jalapeño chilies, salt and pepper. Stir until vegetables soften. {Optional: Add the chicken sausage and cook until done}

3. Return chicken parts back to the pot. Add bay leaves, tomatoes, rice, chicken stock and wine. Cover and adjust heat to a simmer.

4. Cook for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the peas and the scallions. Adjust seasoning.

5. Garnish with more scallions and enjoy.

*If the casing is pork or the sausage size is larger, use 2 chicken sausages.

†Harissa Spice Mix

Harissa Spice Mix
Harissa Spice Mix

1/2 cup of olive oil or butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. ground caraway
1/2 cup mild chili powder
1/2 cup ground hot pepper
2 tbsp. sugar
The zest and juice of one lemon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup mint, finely chopped

1. Over medium temperature, melt butter or heat the olive oil in a skillet. Stir in onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic. Saute for 20 seconds or until lightly golden brown.

2. Add the caraway, chili powder and the hot pepper in the skillet. Toast until fragrant. Remove the skillet from the heat and let it cool slightly.

3. Mix in the rest of the ingredients.

4. Store spice mixture in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or in a freezer for several months.

Both recipes are adapted from The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa by Marcus Samuelsson.

6 thoughts on “Jolloff Rice, A Senegalese-Inspired Dish for Africa Day

  • May 25, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I love Jolloff rice! The first time I had it was here in the US as a friend of mine (From Ghana) made her version of Jolloff rice. I have been hooked ever since and expect to see it at her house every time i visit! But now, with your recipe, maybe I’ll surprise her! She’ll be blown away!

  • May 25, 2010 at 1:03 am

    This looks wonderful. What a blend of flavors and cultures. Quite diverse. Thank you again for participating!

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