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Cami’s Jollof Rice and Peas with Fried Plantain

Jollof rice is a staple dish all over West Africa. Also known as “party rice”, it’s the something you can expect at any celebration, in every household. It’s richly flavoured and starts with the traditional tomato stew that is the base of so many other regional dishes. Developing this recipe was challenging for me, I must admit, but I’m happy for the experience because now I have this wicked technique for creating amazingly flavourful rice pilafs that I can keep in my arsenal. It’s the perfect type of dish to serve for a party, indeed! It’s rich, colourful, and anything but boring. Bonus: it’s also vegan-friendly if you use a vegetable stock cube rather than chicken.

 

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 2 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, roughly chopped
  • ½ scotch bonnet pepper (aka habanero), seeds removed for slightly less heat if desired
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 red onion, diced small
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2.5 tsp Caribbean curry powder
  • 1 x 11.5 g stock cube (chicken preferably, but vegetable also works)
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • 1 ½ cup parboiled long-grain rice, rinsed well until water is clear
    water
  • 1 cup pigeon peas (frozen, or canned and drained) or red kidney beans (canned and drained), optional
  • 2 tsp coconut cream (in brick from from a Caribbean grocer)
  • 1 plantain, ripe to the point where the skin is mostly black, peeled and sliced
  • canola oil, for frying

 

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. To a blender add all ingredients from tomatoes to garlic. Blend until smooth and set aside. Should yield about 2 cups of puree.
  2. Heat a medium-sized heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-low heat; make sure it’s one that has a tight-fitting lid because you’ll need that later. Add the canola oil, salt, and red onion. Sweat until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes – this gently coaxes out their sweetness.
  3. Add the tomato paste and curry powder, increase the heat to medium, and cook while stirring often about 3 minutes. This is to remove the bitter, metallic taste of the tomato while also toasting the curry spices and is a necessary step in any recipe using either of these two ingredients, heads up.
  4. Add the purée, stock cube, thyme and bay leaf. Cover partially with the lid and simmer 20 minutes until thick and reduced. Stir often to prevent any scorching on the bottom of the pot. And definitely cover partially because the sauce is going to splatter. After the 20 minutes it will be reduced to about 1 cup.
  5. Transfer reduced purée to a large measuring cup and add enough water for the total volume to reach the 3 ¼ cup mark. Add this liquid back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling add the rinsed rice and peas (if using). Reduce heat to lower, cover completely with the lid, and simmer 20-25 minutes until rice is fluffy and cooked through. Don’t forget to peek at your rice at the 10-15 minute mark to check the moisture content, as I mentioned above.
  6. Meanwhile, heat a layer of canola oil over medium in a non-stick frying pan. Use a small piece of plantain to test if the oil is at the right temperature: it’s frying time when there are small, rapidly moving bubbles kissing the test piece of plantain. Fry in batches about 1 minute per side until deeply golden brown and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. The sugars in the plantain caramelize quickly, so be mindful of your stove temperature and be sure not to overcrowd the pan.
  7. To serve, remove the bay leaf and transfer hot rice to a platter. Garnish with fried plantains placed around the perimeter.