A cookbook devoted to all of the great rice dishes of the world. Now that would be a dream project: Traveling from country to country researching the most authentic versions along with the myriad regional variations, traditional and contemporary, that would surely exist. Such rice dishes, where every biteful is a perfect mix of contrasting flavors and textures, are some of my favorite foods.
Previously to cooking from the DCCC pick 70 Traditional African Recipes, my expanding fantasy list included Jambalaya, Bibimbap, Paella, Middle Eastern “Upside-Down” Rice, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Biryani, Risotto. Now it includes Joloff Rice, a popular rice dish from West Africa that is thought by some to be a precursor of Jambalaya.
One look online and at African cookbooks tells you that—going from region to region and cook to cook—there are many ways to make Joloff Rice. Tomatoes as well as a meat (usually chicken) are a constant; beyond this there may be several different vegetables and spices and garnishes used. The recipe that follows is based on Rosamund Grant’s version in 70 Traditional African Cooking, which uses an add-in that I particularly like: dried crayfish or shrimp. I’ve added optional garnishes and converted her three-step recipe into an equally traditional but easier one-pot method.
Adapted from recipe in 70 Traditional African Recipes
Serves 4 to 6
2¼ pounds bone-in chicken pieces
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoons palm or vegetable oil (see Note)
1 onion, chopped
2¼ cups chopped tomatoes with juice or 1½ (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2½ cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons dried shrimp or crayfish, finely ground in a mortar and pestle, or 2 teaspoons shrimp or crayfish powder (see Note)
1 green chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1½ cups long-grain rice
½ teaspoon salt
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
Slice hard-cooked eggs, for garnish (optional)
- Rub the chicken pieces with the garlic and thyme and set aside.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven, braiser, or other large heavy pot, preferably wide enough to brown all the chicken pieces at once, until hot but not smoking. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides, then add the onion, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Cook over moderately high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften.
- Add 2 cups of the stock, the ground shrimp or crayfish, and the chili pepper to the pan and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the rice, the remaining ½ cup of stock, and the salt. Make sure all the rice is covered by liquid. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over low heat until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.
Note: Palm oil and dried shrimp or crayfish are available in most Asian, African, or Caribbean food shops. I ordered African ingredients online at Aboasa International Market. Palm oil solidifies at room temperature, but liquefies when heated.