In 2020, I discovered through a DNA test that I am Nigerian (👀). Born and raised in America, my blood test only showed a small percentage of “African American” descent. But my strong Nigerian blood rang through, and thus, I went on a journey to discover my true roots. I moved to Ghana in 2021 and I’ve been here since. Why I chose Ghana over Nigeria is a story for another day.
Anyhow, to prepare for this momentous trip, I wanted to study my Nigerian sisters. And cooking is always an icebreaker. Cooking brings us together. The kitchen… is family. That was a lesson I learned during my traveling outside of the U.S.
Now, I will admit… jollof rice is a classic dish in West Africa! Ghanaians LOVE their jollof rice, but I’m NOT so fond of it: Imagine my own disappointment that I cannot share the excitement of a classic local dish! It’s originated from my ancestors. And I needed to connect to THEM.
But when I taste their local dish, to me, the dish lacks flavor. It tastes bland…smokey, but still bland… I can blame my southern African American culture for that – we love a LOT of flavor, packed with heat, and dipped in fat grease or your choice (butter, lard, oil)! So the jollof rice, as it was prepared locally in Accra, Ghana… was a NO-NO for me.
BUT, I never give up on food because it is so versatile and transformative… so I figured after watching YouTube videos of both Ghanaians and Nigerians making jollof rice, Nigerians have a little more pep in their seasonings, I’ll try it. I’ll give the Nigerian jollof rice recipe a try and try to reach deep for the love shared by so many of my West African sisters and brothers. Hey…
I’m trying to connect here 🙂
So after searching YouTube and watching a butt load of jollof rice videos by Nigerians and Ghanaians, I found the one video that really broke down the “why we make it this way” jollof rice recipe. I’ve never met her before, but I pray that when I’m in Nigeria, we will run into each other in the street :0) Yes, I know Lagos is huge, but to God, everybody is small. #facts
The Recipe I Followed (somewhat hee, hee, hee): SisiYemmieTV on YouTube, a popular Nigerian Chef
**Disclaimer: I am NOT sponsored by her channel. I found her in my search for Nigerian-inspired recipes and fell in love with her technique and her spirit. I am not getting paid for promoting her channel. I believe Black people should work together and build our OWN economy amongst our OWN nation. Rant over.**
Let Me Explain
Okay, so before you watch MY video and grab your pearls, I am in my nightgown. I am preparing my Shabbat meal as I observe Shabbat on Friday sundown until Saturday sundown. In preparation for Shabbat, I prepare my meals the morning of. This Shabbat, I decided to try the Nigerian-style jollof rice recipe following the guidance of my Nigerian sister, Sisi Yemmi.
Don’t be alarmed, I cook naked most times. So the night gown is just for the camera! When you live alone and free, you tend to be naked most days. It cuts down on the laundry :). Don’t judge!
So in the video, you will see a lot of filters to cover my “nakedness”. What I want you to pay close attention to is the conversation, I share a LOT of my experience living in Ghana and the importance of knowing who you are. Though this filming was stressful on so many levels because I did it all alone, I take pride in the fact that I actually did it. I hope you are elevated in your consciousness to see how you can also use your own gifts (introvert or not) to create a magical experience for so many to enjoy! And when you do, come back here and comment! We grow together 🙂
The Recipe Breakdown
- Basmati rice (I only had the local Ghanaian rice, so that’s what I used)
- Chicken legs & goat pieces (use any meat you want)
- Bay leaves
- Beef & chicken bouillon
- Curry powder
- Green and red bell pepper (red bell pepper is expensive in Accra! Geesh so I only used 1 big red pepper)
- White pepper
- Tomato paste
- Fresh Tomatoes (added)
- One head of garlic (added)
- Ginger (added)
- Garlic powder
Step 1: Prepare the Meat and Veggies
In a large pot, add the meat and spices. The seasonings: chopped onions, bay leaves, garlic powder, beef bouillon, chicken bouillon, thyme (or any Italian seasoning), white pepper, and salt to taste
Though in the video, she used beef pieces, which I used for my recipe both chicken and goat. I’m building my own flavor base here.
Now, what I did differently is I marinated both the chicken and goat in the spices and onions one hour before cooking it. In the same pot I cooked the meat in, I marinated it for one hour. Building that flavor base all in the crevasses of that pot!
Then I put the pot on the stove on medium heat, and allowed it to cook for about 20-25 minutes, allowing the marinated meats to make its own liquor (that’s what my grandma calls all of that deliciousness in that pot!). Then I added water to cover the meats, covered the pot, and cooked it on medium heat for another 30-40 minutes.
Tip: Don’t throw away the liquid after the meats are done cooking! We will use this stock later for the rice 🙂 Building the flavor.
Note this: chicken cooks faster than the goat. So I took the chance of overcooking the chicken legs because I knew the next step was to fry the chicken so its texture would return once it hits that hot grease. I was hoping at least lol.. this was my first go.
I would be remiss to say that I wouldn’t use chicken breasts for this recipe because it would dry out and fall to pieces. And chicken wings are too small to cook so long in boiling water. I went with the chicken legs and it turned out perfectly! And tasty too.. the longer it cooked in that marinated spicy water, the better the seasonings went throughout the meat! #winning
Now that the meats are cooking, let’s roast the veggies! The roasted method which I learned from my Nigerian sister, gives the jollof rice a smoky flavor, and boy oh boy was it a great method! I actually had fun chopping the veggies and preparing them for my toaster oven. The recipe only called for onions and red bell peppers; but since my market’s red bell peppers cost an arm and a leg, I used 1 large red bell pepper, a few onions, green bell peppers, fresh tomatoes, and a whole head of garlic! Come on, roasted garlic?? #winning Not to mention the health benefits! #scoring
Oh but wait, how about preparing the rice? So for the classic recipe, basmati rice is used and the only prep work is to wash the rice. Me? I need that flavor baby! So I washed the rice a couple of times until the water ran clear. Then I soaked it with a couple of pieces of fresh garlic WHILST the chicken, goat, and veggies were cooking! That flavor profile is coming along quite nicely at this point. The kitchen smells like heaven!
Step 2: Fry the meats
After the meat has properly cooked to your desired texture (whatever the heck that means), it’s time to fry. Now, this is the classic method and I’m not quite sure why the meat is fried after it is boiled or cooked, but hey, let’s go with it! I love a good piece of fried anything 🙂
My twist, I used the cooking oil from the night before when I fried fish (I love fried food). It was still fresh and clean, and clear as you will see in the video! Honey, flavor building… the meat is already seasoned to my perfection, and now it’s going to be fried to another level of yumminess!
Why? Because the classic recipe calls for the oil used to fry the meats to also be used to start the base of the jollof rice (genius idea by the way!). So I used the flavored oil and added flavored meat and created a new flavored base for the jollof rice.
Step 3: The Star of the Meal – Rice, Rice baby!
Using the oil from the fried meats, add to a large rice pot. Add onions, bay leaves, spices (the same spices used for the meats), and fry for about 2-3 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add tomato paste and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the tomato paste gives off a dark brown color. Add the blended roasted veggies… and here is where it went LEFT!
Jollof Rice Gone Left
First of all, I followed the video step-by-step for the most part. And I know exactly where I went wrong: MEASUREMENTS! I didn’t measure a damn thing!
I added way too much of the blended veggies, not accounting for the fact that I will use the chicken/goat stock too. Too much liquid, not enough rice… you get soup 🙁 But it gets so much better because I am not a quitter!
😉 I was cooking like my grandma taught me: with your senses. I measured based on my love for the ingredient and how much I wanted that particular flavor to shine through. It was smelling so good, each step built a different flavor base and it was all smelling so heavenly that I got lost in the moment. Well… it was more soup than rice! LMBO But I was not about to let all of my hard work of building that flavor profile go to waste!
The taste was PHENOMENAL, the texture was a total drag. It had a texture more of a rice casserole dish than actual jollof rice. But the taste is how I think jollof rice should be – yep, I said that unapologetically 🙂 So I think I just found a new recipe remix to add to my repertoire.
How it’s supposed to go down is you add the blended roasted veggie mix, rice, and enough water to cook the rice. Add one cup of the stock. Cover and cook on medium heat. I’m not quite sure how long the rice was cooking in her video, but cook it until the rice is done and you should come out with her results… my rice took about 15-20 minutes.
You’ll see in the video how I kept adding rice to the soup to soak up all of that liquid, but it didn’t work. So I changed methods.
I pulled out my trusty old glass baking dish. Added the jollof rice soup, laid down the fried chicken and goat pieces on top.. kind of snuggled it in the rice mixture. Then I baked it in my toaster oven on high heat for 20 minutes. Basically, to cook the rice until it was tender 🙂
This method gave me the rice texture I was looking for! And the flavor was out of this world good! Finally I could taste the spices in the rice… the remix fix worked 🙂 I was lucky on that one .. or maybe inspired by my ancestors. Either way, I’ll take the win!
I can’t even prepare you enough for the tasting. In the spirit of ‘keeping it real’ and being as transparent as I can on my blog, you will notice that I am out of my robe, sitting on my bed, watching Big Bang Theory, and enjoying dinner! Raw footage indeed, so I had to use ‘filters’ to cover my indecent exposure. Let me explain…
I’m in peri-menopause season. Hot flashes, fatigue, forgetfulness, irritability, vertigo and I’ll say it again: HOT FLASHES! So after cooking this jollof rice remix, my body was spent! I was having severe hot flashes, so I am sitting directly under the air conditioner and the ceiling fan. You may hear these things in the background.
SIDEBAR: Living alone in an unfamiliar land in your 40s is challenging, ESPECIALLY if no one ever warned you about aging! And thus, my traumatic transition is now on blast. I’m journaling my experience and teaching everything I’m learning as I am learning it, so my daughter and her daughter and her daughter’s daughter won’t be taken off guard like I was.
Making a Scene in Periods. Period.
Let’s talk about how to heal our periods
I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done. Here’s the final dish before plating. It looked like a whole mess, but I want you to watch the video tasting to see the whole story! Never judge a dish by this photo HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Back to the tasting… you know I love to talk 🙂
Okay, here’s the whole video. Brace yourselves, I wasn’t trying to be fancy for the camera. This is me, behind closed doors, observing Shabbat, in the privacy of my home. Be kind in the comments.
Watch With Me
#cookwithme #afrikanastories #nigeria #jollofrice
Make history with your words, and I can help!