I recently got back from a trip to Ghana with my mom and sister. We spent 10 days exploring the country from the capital of Accra, north to Kumasi for the Festival of the Golden Stool and out to the Cape Coast. Wherever we went, we gorged ourselves on incredibly fresh produce (have you ever had white pineapple? It’s infinitely better than regular pineapple!), so many soups (Light soup, Groundnut soup, Red-red soup), and Jollof, always Jollof.
For breakfast, lunch or dinner, this West African rice staple was an ever-present accompaniment to our travels through Ghana. Savory, spicy and satisfying, if you haven’t tried Jollof, RUN, don’t walk to your nearest African restaurant or try making it at home! The secret to Jollof Rice is cooking it in a rich and spicy tomato soup to create beautiful color and deep flavor. The other secret to Jollof Rice is that there is a huge debate raging between Nigerians and Ghanaians who both claim to make the best Jollof Rice on the planet!
Now I ran into a few stumbling blocks almost as soon as I decided to make Jollof Rice. Problem #1 was finding a recipe. There were so many, and they were all so different. Some called for fresh tomatoes, others for canned. Some called for bell peppers, others for habaneros others for both and on and on.
I took some advice from my Nigerian co-worker and some encouragement from the man behind the counter at the Makola African Supermarket who nodded in approval as I piled my purchases up. In the end, I used an amalgamation of a few recipes and, although I was definitely trying to make Ghanaian Jollof, I think I very well may have accidentally ended up with Nigerian Jollof. I’m not going to get involved in an international debate, so I’ll just say that both are delicious and Ghanaian or Nigerian, you can’t go wrong.
Ghanaian Jollof Rice with Chicken Stew
For the Rice:
2 cups Jasmine, Basmati or other long-grain rice
2 cups fresh chicken stock from poached chicken thighs
3 medium yellow onions
3 red bell peppers
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 teaspoon ground ginger (I didn’t have any ground so just chopped some fresh and tossed it in)
4 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic
Fresh or dry thyme
Palm oil (available from an African market or Amazon) or Grapeseed oil
For the chicken:
4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1. Cover chicken thighs in cold water. Simmer on low with a few bay leaves and onion until just cooked through.
2. While chicken cooks, prepare the stew for your rice. Rough chop two onions and two bell peppers. Saute over medium heat in 1 Tablespoon of palm oil. Season with salt and pepper.
3. While onion and bell pepper saute, slice remaining pepper and onion into medium dice and chop all garlic.
4. Once onions and peppers are soft and begin to brown, remove from heat and transfer to a food processor. Process until smooth. Add one can of crushed tomatoes and process to combine.
5. While blending your puree, return to the same pan and heat with a little more palm oil. Add medium-diced onion and bell pepper and saute until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Once soft, add garlic, bay leaf, thyme, curry and tomato paste to pan, cook for one minute then add your tomato/pepper puree (you should have about 4 cups). Allow this to simmer for 10 minutes. You have now created your stew!
7. Grab a second heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid and heat over medium. Add 1 Tablespoon of palm oil and rice. Saute rice for a few minutes to toast.
8. Add two cups of your stew, two cups of chicken stock and bouillon cube. Stir, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes.
9. While rice cooks, remove your chicken from the stock and cut into large chunks. Add chicken back into the pan with your remaining stew and let simmer on low until your rice is done. I like to add a little more curry powder to the chicken for some additional spice.
10. Check rice after 15 minutes. Rice should be cooked through but still firm.
11. Fluff rice with a fork and serve topped with chicken stew.
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