Out of Africa

Spring is a beautiful time of the year filled with synonyms for new life: spring showers, flowers and fun. This time however has found me in a very busy period, and I find myself falling back to a reliable staple of West African Cuisine. With easy-to-find ingredients, one pot and 30 minutes, you can easily make a hearty delicious meal of jollof.

The origin of jollof rice is somewhat a bone of contention among several countries in West Africa, but experts believe that the true origin of this dish is from the Wolof people of modern day Senegal. Because the Wolof people were aggressive traders who traded in everything from spices to slaves, many of whom were shipped to the new world. Often traveling to North Africa and beyond on business, they had an early exposure to various spice mixes, particularly Mediterranean influences, vis-a-vis food (paella) and brought that knowledge back to West Africa. This style of cooking is also believed by some to be the origin of Cajun jambalaya. Jollof rice is a very versatile dish that appeals to virtually any palate. It can be served with an assortment of meats like goat, cow or bush meat (wild game). It also is served with fish, particularly in coastal towns where fish like tilapia and catfish are abundant, and plain for vegetarians. It can be served for lunch or dinner, and can be seen in various West African celebrations from christenings to weddings.

My passion for African cuisine started from a very young age. Being brought up in Africa by a caterer mother, I was not only exposed to traditional African food preparation methods but was also expected to be able to cook and feed my siblings when my mother was not around, which I did with much pleasure. Learning the art of African cooking always started with the classics like stews, soups and staples. The art of cooking the classic rice staple of jollof is considered by many as the sign of a true African cook. I learned how to cook jollof rice, the way most young African girls still do, in my mother’s kitchen. I have seen several variations of this dish which is as numerous as the different tribal groups in West Africa, but my recipe reflects my background and training.

When I immigrated to the United States at about 16 years of age, I saw that while there was such a huge disparity with regards to cuisines between my home continent and America. African cuisine could be adapted to the western dinner table, and ingredients are readily available in most grocery stores. I also noticed a lack of exposure with respect to cookbooks, food television shows and magazines with respect to African cuisine. This lack of information is what motivated me to start Afrofoodtv.com, an online resource for African cuisine where I host online African food television shows teaching viewers how to cook delicious African food and help to remove any misconceptions about African cuisine. It’s my hope and dream to expose this delicious array of flavors and textures that is African cuisine.

I hope you enjoy this dish as many African and non-Africans alike do. And remember to try African cuisine. Imagine opening a window to an unexplored world of flavors and foods! It is truly exciting. SP
Yeti Ezeanii is the founder and host of www.afrofoodtv.com.


Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

  • 4 cups of parboiled rice
  • 3 large red bell pepper (seeds removed), roasted if possible
  • 5 small shallots
  • 5 large roma tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ¾ cup of canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • 2 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoon of chicken bouillon (Knorr or Maggi)
  • 2 ½ cups of chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions (for topping)

Cut up tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. Place in blender with 1 cup of water. Puree until blended. Pour 3/4 cup of canola oil in a large stock pot, and place on medium heat. Allow oil to heat up for 3 minutes, and add tomato puree mixture. Add curry powder, thyme, bay leaves and chicken bouillon. Mix thoroughly. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, making sure to stir periodically to prevent burning. Add washed parboiled rice and salt to taste. Stir. Cover pot with lid, and reduce heat to low so rice can simmer. Take care to not mix rice any further as this can stop even cooking of the rice. Check rice in 15 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, and turn off heat. Keep pot tightly covered with lid for next 10 minutes as this allows the steam to cook the rice further. Remove bay leaves and discard. Fluff rice, and serve hot topped with optional chopped scallions and assorted meats.

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