Recipe from chef Kwasi Kwaa of Comfort Kitchen (comfortkitchenbos.com).
Jollof rice is a West African favorite and Ghanaian staple. The spices and scotch bonnets in the tomato base give it the kick we love. It’s famous in West Africa for a reason — and also famous for the debate between countries about who makes it better! As native of Ghana, Kwasi is definitely biased but most of all wants to make it famous in Boston, too!
Jollof gets its vibrant color from a tomato base, packed with spices, chiles, and ginger. In this version, he uses Jollof Festival, a blend based on a family recipe. The sauce simmers slowly before the rice is added, then it simmers some more so that the rice soaks up all those great flavors.
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1½ teaspoon minced scotch bonnet chile (for less heat, substitute habanero chile)
1½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Jollof Festival
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 large tomatoes, cut in a small dice or 8–12 ounces tomato purée
1 sprig basil, leaves and stems
2 cups uncooked rice (basmati or jasmine)
2 cups vegetable stock or water, plus a little more for deglazing
Put the oil into a large, heavy-bottom skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, chile, and ginger and sautée until the onions are caramelized, but not too browned.
Add the tomato paste to the skillet and cook until it darkens and sweetens, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan as needed with some stock or water to avoid burning and sticking. (Adding a little liquid to the hot pan, or deglazing, helps capture the extra flavors in the bits stick to the bottom of the pan as the tomato paste cooks.)
Add the Jollof Festival and salt, stir and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes or tomato puree to the skillet, stir, and let simmer for about 15 minutes — the flavor gets better the longer it stews. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as needed, then add the basil and let simmer for a few minutes longer.
Remove the basil, add the rice, and stir to coat the rice with the sauce. Add the stock or water, enough to cover the rice by ½-inch. Bring the liquids just to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet.
Check on the rice periodically, stirring to make sure it’s cooking evenly. The rice is usually cooked after about 20 minutes but timing will depend on the rice and heat. For best results, allow the rice to steam until it sticks to the bottom of the pan. (Traditionally, Jollof rice cooks like paella with a crispy crust developing on the bottom that both insulates the rice as it cooks and intensifies flavors.)