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How To Make Liberian Jollof Rice

Most meals in Liberia are prepared in a single kettle over a three-stone fire. Liberians also have a long tradition of baking pastries. Their bakeries are noted for sweet potato, coconut and pumpkin pies; sweet potato cookies, peanut cookies, cassava cakes, pound cakes and spice cakes.

Reflecting the Creole heritage of the country, Jollof rice is a one-pot dish popular in many West African countries. It is a West African version of pilaf or paella, and possibly a progenitor of the Louisianian dish jambalaya!

The dish consists of rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onions, salt, spices and chili peppers; optional ingredients can be added such as vegetables, meats, or fish. Due to the tomato paste and palm oil, the dish is always red in colour.

Jollof rice is a favorite Sunday meal in Liberia and the recipe varies according to locally available ingredients. I would like to think my traditional version would find great favor with the freedom-loving people of Liberia!

Battle on – The Generalissimo

¾ cup palm oil or peanut oil

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ pound cooked chicken breast, chopped

¼ pound ham, cut into 1-inch chunks

¼ pound slab bacon, minced

½ sweet onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

½ cup bell peppers (green, red, yellow and purple), finely chopped

1 pound package of frozen mixed vegetables (peas, corn and beans are ideal!)

2 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, seeded and finely chopped

1 ½ teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 cups tomatoes, chopped

12 ounces tomato paste

1 quart homemade chicken stock (preferred) or water

1 ½ tablespoons Maggi Seasoning (or more, to taste)

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon smoked (preferred) or regular sweet paprika

2 cups short-grain white rice, cooked in advance

Minced parsley for garnish

Blend the tomatoes, tomato paste, hot peppers, garlic, onions and ginger to a paste in the food processor.

Heat the paste in a large pot until bubbles appear – the point is to boil out the water to thicken the paste and concentrate the flavors! Reserve.

Sauté bacon in a large saucepan until lightly crisp. Remove bacon, and reserve.

Pour ¼ cup of oil into the saucepan with the bacon fat. Sauté shrimp, chicken and ham on medium-high heat until slightly brown. Remove from the pan.

In the same saucepan, add the rest of the oil and sauté the tomato paste over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and mixed vegetables and reduce to medium heat.

Simmer for 5 minutes; then stir in stock or water, Maggi seasoning, bay leaves, paprika and thyme. Add the meat, reserved bacon and shrimp to the mixture. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low.

Lift the meat and shrimp from the sauce with a slotted spoon, and stir prepared rice into the sauce. Serve on a platter with the meat and shrimp in the center, garnish with minced parsley.

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Creole Jollof Jollof Rice Liberia


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