Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ghanaian Food - Jollof Rice

A couple of days ago I got the cooking bug again and decided to cook myself some Ghanaian food. Now I know from past experiences that Ghanaian food is not easy to cook. It takes time and energy, not to mention utilizing numerous dishes which means loads of cleanup work. I was in the mood for something really filling so I decided to make some Jollof Rice. Those of you who have ever had an Indian Biryani, or Spanish Paella, you could say this is the African version. First I cleaned up some onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, and red chilly peppers. I would say that you got to use as many tomatoes as you do onions so the balance is maintained.

Next I blended the goodies in my trusty mixer, making sure to add ample sugar. I should also mention that my preparation style in even ingredients might not be traditional and completely accurate but I just work with what I can pull together at the time. It usually pays off.

As I have mentioned before, the fillet chicken here in GZ is really shite. It gets tough and stringy after cooking for only 5 minutes. That is probably why you don’t see too many boneless chicken dishes o the local menus here. So again I have opted to utilize some plump chicken legs in my Jollof Rice. I poured about ¼ of my well blended concoction over the chicken to marinate for a while. You could use beaf or mutton as well and it is a good idea to let the meat marinate over night so it can really absorb the flavors and spices.

Once I heated up the pan with a generous amount of oil, I threw in the chicken with the marinade just to sear and brown the meat. In my mix there was actually a bit too much marinade I think so I had to remove some. I just wanted the meat to fry a bit, not to actually stew with the sauce.

Then I removed the pieces of meat and put them in a pot of boiling water to insure they cook all the way through. Also I figured I can also use this water like a broth to cook the rest of the meal. Proper cooks would probably have some real broth ready but I was really winging it here. In fact every time I have cooked Jellof before this I have just let the meat cook with the rice, but sometimes it will not cook all the way through. With a good boil I figured I would get the meat cooked properly and have some broth to boot.

There should be a decent amount of marinade, which should now be a bit like a stew, in the pot. I threw 2 cups of washed but uncooked rice into the stew and gave it a good stir coating all the grains. Once that is done I just kept adding more of the marinade mix and hot broth, allowing the rice to cook slowly in the thick stew. I figure this would give the rice an opportunity to really soak in the flavors as well. Once the rice was half cooked I added the meat back to the mix. The goal is actually to get a finished rice and chicken dish that is not too wet but properly cooked so I had to keep adding the brother slowly while the rice cooked of all the water. It is a fine balancing act in my opinion, that I am in no way used to performing.

I felt like quite a hero having 2 pots bubbling in front of me on the stove. I was suffering from a pretty bad hangover that evening as well and task of managing both the mixtures at once was overwhelming. But I am glad to say that I was not injured even once during the process.

I finally ended up with a dish of the consistency I was aiming for. The rice was cooked and moist. The meat was tender and well immersed in the flavorful juices I had prepared. Many people add more vegetables to this dish like peas, carrots, or even potatoes. But I was not in the mood for all those fillers and I really just wanted to get to the core of this meal. My fist solo attempt at Jollof Rice came out very well although I will implement some changes in my next shot. You cant cook Jollof for one so when you whip up this dish you better have loads of friends to feed or at least be prepared to eat Jollof left over for your next 3 meals.

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