Legendary Dishes | Jollof (spicy tomato rice with chicken / beef / lamb)


The origins of jollof remain disputed across the west African countries but all agree that the basic ingredients are hot chilli peppers, crayfish powder, onions, palm oil, red peppers and tomatoes, and sometimes garlic, and it is this combination that gives the rice its distinctive red colour, if not its quixotic taste – which is always personal and usually very regional. The method also varies. Some cooks blend the tomatoes, add them to sauteéd chillies, garlic, onions and peppers heavily seasoned, and loosen this sauce with the stock, then use this mixture to cook the rice. Other cooks place the emphasis on the depth of colour, and coat the rice with the red mixture before adding the adding the stock. And some cooks serve the meat separately while others incorporate it into the rice, especially if it is minced.

For the meat stock place 2 kilos of beef bones in a large pot with 2 litres of water, bring to the boil, remove scum, add 150 g onion, three garlic cloves, one cinnamon stick, one scotch bonnet chilli, 15 g crayfish power / shrimp paste, 15 g guinea peppers, 5 g nutmeg and a large pinch of salt, and cook for two hours. Strain.

  • 750 ml spiced meat stock
  • 500 g long grain rice
  • 500 g chicken / beef / lamb, minced or sliced
  • 500 g plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 250 g onions, chopped
  • 250 g red peppers, chopped
  • 90 ml vegetable oil
  • 30 g crayfish powder / shrimp powder
  • 30 g tomato paste
  • 15 ml red palm oil
  • 10 g ground red chillies / cayenne pepper
  • 1 scotch bonnet chilli pepper, chopped
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Fry onions and red peppers in the vegetable oil over a medium heat until they are soft, add plum tomatoes, scotch bonnet chilli, tomato paste and crayfish or shrimp powder. Cook until the liquid in the mixture has evaporated, and a thick paste remains, about 700 g, slightly less than two-thirds of the original weight. In a separate pot gently heat the palm oil, add the rice, tomato mixture and seasonings, stir until the rice is fully coated and has a red colour. Brown choice of meat in a splash of oil, set aside and keep warm. Heat the stock and add it to the tomato-coated rice, cook for 30 minutes. If using minced meat, place over the rice ten minutes before the end of cooking. If using beef slices, serve hot with the rice. If using chicken add it back into the rice after browning.