Home » Africa: Jollof Rice Takes Center Stage in Trinidad and Tobago during Emancipation Festivities, Celebrating African Heritage

Africa: Jollof Rice Takes Center Stage in Trinidad and Tobago during Emancipation Festivities, Celebrating African Heritage

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On August 1, Trinidad and Tobago commemorated Emancipation festivities, a celebration of African heritage encompassing culture, fashion, and delicious food.

According to trinidadexpress.com, Last week, the Express put the spotlight on African-inspired home décor. However, this week, the focus is on the beloved West African dish jollof rice.

Mercy “Mimi” Ogan, a cook who spoke with the Express at East Side Plaza, Port of Spain, on Monday, said jollof rice, one of the most celebrated dishes in West Africa, is also a universal favourite.

“I was born in Trinidad, but my mother is Nigerian. After my father died, we left Trinidad to live in Nigeria. I was ten and became quickly intrigued with the Nigerian culture and food,” Ogan said.

Ogan describes jollof as a red-orange rice with lots of flavour. “I grew up on jollof rice, but my mother and her family mainly prepared it for celebrations like weddings, a birthday or a national holiday. I learned to cook it very early,” Ogan said.

READ: News: Food Inflation Hits 25.25% in Nigeria as Jollof Rice Prices Soar by 34.2% Within a Year

Beloved variations
Ogan said there are variations of jollof rice, but all are beloved. “The basic ingredi¬ents are rice, tomatoes, onions, bay leaf, green and chilli peppers, various spices, and meat can be added, mainly fish or shrimp.” It gets its red-orange colour from the tomatoes.

“This is an easy one-pot dish. And in the same way there are variations of pelau, there are also variations of jollof. Some people like their pelau wet, and some like it dry. It is the same with jollof rice. But the rice grains in a good jollof must not be too sappy. The rice grains should stay separate while being cooked to perfection. You can make your version to suit your taste because some like it spicy,” Ogan said.

Ogan said her mother was the queen of jollof. “My mother was the Jollof Queen where we stayed on Opebi Road in Lagos. Everyone would come to her to make large pots of jollof. She had a secret ingredient. And that’s the thing about jollof: some people know the secrets to bringing out the flavours in their jollof, but they guard them with their lives.

“One trick is that you have to cook it slowly on a low fire and properly infuse it with flavours. Some jollof has a natural smoky flavour, and that is because the secret is instead of buying tomato sauce from a jar, you can roast your tomatoes and make a rich paste and use it for a unique flavour to your rice,” Ogan said.

Ogan said various West African countries are usually involved in debate about whose jollof is better. “Just like Trinidad and Guyana has this back-and-forth banter about curry chicken and chicken curry, West Africans have their friendly war going on as well,” she said with a laugh.

“Senegalese and Ghana say they have the best jollof, and they mock the Nigerians’ jollof, but people come from far and wide for a good Nigerian jollof. Nigeria is known worldwide for having the best jollof,” Ogan said.

Nigerian jollof rice recipe
Ingredients
5 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 medium-sized onion, roughly chopped, set aside
2 Scotch bonnet peppers
1/4 cup coconut oil
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups parboiled rice
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon all-purpose seasoning
3 bay leaves

Water as needed
Directions
1. Blend your tomatoes, red pepper and Scotch bonnet peppers in a food processor or blender for about 45 seconds; make sure that everything is blended well.

2. In a medium-sized pot, heat your oil on medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the onions you set aside and fry just until they turn golden brown. Once the onions, have turned brown in colour, add the tomato paste and fry for two to three minutes.

3. Add the blended tomato mixture (reserve about quarter-cup and set aside) and fry the mixture with the onions and tomato paste for about 30 minutes. Make sure you stir consistently so that the tomato mixture does not burn.

4. After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to medium and add the chicken stock. Mix and add your seasonings (salt, curry powder, thyme and all-purpose seasoning). Continue to boil for ten minutes.

5. Add the parboiled rice to the pot. Mix it very well with the tomato stew. At this point, if you need to add water so that the rice is level with the tomato mixture/chicken stock, go ahead and do so. Add the bay leaves, cover the pot and cook on medium-to-low heat for 15 to 30 minutes.

6. When the liquid has almost dried up, add the remaining tomato stew, cover and let it cook for another five to ten minutes until the liquid has completely dried up.

7. Turn off the heat, mix thoroughly and your jollof rice is ready to be eaten.

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