By Ozoz Sokoh
Here’s an update on a Nigerian classic: Stir-fried Jollof rice. And this isn’t to buck tradition – this is about how travel shapes who we are, opens up our eyes to new possibilities and redefines our boundaries. For Nigerian Jollof is typically ‘stewed’, not stir-fried or oven-baked.
Right now, Nigerians the world over are planning their Christmas meals, and clothes. They are wondering how they’ll spice the fried chicken, and how the Jollof (rice) must have that ‘smoky’ flavour, thanks to socarrat, or bottom pot as we call it in Nigeria. They have also picked out special clothes and shoes for the day. The children especially.
Jollof rice is made for everyday, but especially for Christmas Day. Along with Fried chicken and beef and ‘Nigerian salad’ – a coleslaw type salad.
Spicebaby says: ‘For those who are not familiar with the term, BOTTOM POT is that last few spoonfuls of food still left at the ‘bottom of the pan’ which you may have to scrape into your own plate after everyone else is served. See, in order to get a well-cooked pot of certain meals, the contents of the bottom of the saucepan may sometimes get overcooked and in some cases, get near burnt. This usually does not necessary mean the entire pot is inedible as the ‘damage’ is only done to just the last layer of food.
Here is the thing: those brown bits that’s left behind is widely regarded by several people I spoke to as the best tasting part of the entire pot of food. I’m not quite sure what is responsible for this but my theory is: the BOTTOM POT is so tasty because most of the seasoning had settled at the bottom during the cooking process. Add the barbecuing (burning) to it and voila! a brand new, crunchy, flavor emerges.’
Nigerian Classic Stir Fried Jollof-Rice
1kg rice (5 and 1/2 ) cups rice (about 16 cups cooked)1.5 litres boiling water 4 – 5 cups of Tomato mixture (400g tomatoes, 6 medium onions, chillies, to taste) Chopped Vegetables 3/4 cup chopped carrots (about 3 small carrots) 1/2 cup white, 1/2 cup green of spring onions/scallions (about 2 large onions) 1/3 – 1/2 cup green beans, topped and tailed (about 12 beans) Cooking oil (I used Canola) Garlic & Ginger paste (puree of equal amounts fresh ginger and garlic. Also available to buy in Indian/Asian stores; garlic and ginger powder can be use instead, with proportions adjusted) Curry Powder (Caribbean-style) Dried Thyme Maggi stock cubes Tomato paste/puree Salt, pepper to taste You will fry the rice in 4 – 5 batches, each time using the ingredients listed. i like to combine all the batches in a large pot, simmer for a few minutes to unify the flavours of the different batches before serving.
Step 1: Prepare rice (can be done a day ahead)
In a large pot, combine the rice with the boiling water and a teaspoon of salt, and let cook on medium – high heat for 5 minutes. As you will season the rice during stir-frying, you do not want to over-salt it at this stage.
Stir and turn the heat down to a simmer, for 10 minutes till the rice is a touch cooked and the water is absorbed. You do not want the rice to be cooked through.
Take of heat, let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes then spread on a tray (or two) to cool. Put it by an open window or a fan or pop the trays in the fridge or deep freezer till cold. This will allow the rice keep its structure and not turn mushy during the stir-frying process.
Step 2: Prepare Tomato Mixture (can be done a day ahead) & Chop Vegetables
Blend chopped tomatoes, onions, chillies with some water or stock till fairly smooth. Set aside, or keep covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days, frozen for up to 3 months, till ready to use.
To prepare vegetables, finely chop carrots, green beans, spring onions and combine, except the green spring onions. This will form the vegetable medley for the stir-fry.
Step 3: Stir-frying the rice
Keep a large pot handy on the stovetop where all the batches of the rice will go in to, for a final stir and simmer once you’re done, if you like. Alternatively serve from pan to plate.
To fry a batch: heat up a large pan with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. To this, add 1/4 cup of vegetables, 1 – 2 teaspoons of the ginger-garlic paste, 1 teaspoon each curry powder and dried thyme, 1 Maggi stock cube, 2 teaspoons of tomato puree and a pinch of salt. Stir fry for a minute, then add 3/4 – 1 cup of the blended tomato mixture.
Check for seasoning and adjust to taste. Allow the sauce to cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring continuously so the bottom doesn’t burn (too much). Add 4 cups of rice and stir.
Stir, from the bottom up, to the centre, pulling in the rice till the grains are coated and coloured orange.Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Check again for seasoning and adjust. Add the green spring onions, stir to combine and turn out into the large pot, on stand-by.
Repeat this process for the other batches, till rice, tomato mixture and vegetables are used up.
Finally, heat up the cooked rice on low heat, stirring gently, for about 10 minutes.
Serve with (Suya) oven/fried chicken and a Nigerian Salad (recipe coming up in the next post).
Follow this link to learn more about this meal: kitchenbutterfly.com