Ghana style Jollof Rice
Some dishes are a victim of their own success. They are just a little too tasty and too convenient to make. Jollof rice is one of such dishes. Nigeria claims the dish as their national dish whilst Ghanaians will swear under all sorts of oaths that it is one of theirs. Even England’s Jamie Oliver’s outrageous European twist on Jollof rice made waves, mostly for the wrong reasons, but waves it did make. The truth, however, of the ancient origin of jollof rice is much closer to Gambia and Senegal, more specifically amongst the Wollof people who once had a kingdom called the Kingdom of Jolof.
Regardless of its origins this dish has done more for African unity than any politician could ever dream of. Any abuses committed against it that diminish its authenticity is seen as scandalous and almost sacrilegious. That is not to say that Jollof rice is the same everywhere. The cooking methods, ingredients used and type of rice (basmati or long grain) used all vary across Africa.
Ghana style jollof rice is one of the most popular. Any uncalled for twists to their version offends their sensibilities. These are a proud people (myself included) who claim jollof rice as their birth right. Ghanaians do not like their Jollof rice smokey or laced with okra. They have okro stew and soup for their okro dose. Fish and other sea food are “absolutely out of the question” as suitable pairings for Ghana jollof rice. Chicken, beef and lamb, meanwhile, are mandatory – with green peas, diced carrots, sweet corn an “optional extra”.
In Ghana jollof rice is usually a must in any self-respecting party, marriage engagement or wedding. I will bet you a million dollars (if I had it) that you’d never go to a typical Ghanaian restaurant anywhere in the world and not find jollof rice on the menu.
That aromatic mixture of gently sautéed onions, blended peppers, ginger and tomatoes – is the lynchpin of African cooking, and of most jollof rice dishes. Ghanaian style jollof is slow cooked which allows the various ingredients and spices (if added) to give the meal a robust and more intense flavour.
Ghana jollof is normally served with gravy, shito and fried plantain as a side. I normally skip the gravy. Apparently folks who have theirs with gravy have trust issues. Ghana jollof is not only a festive dish that celebrates the joy of important occasions but one that is just as popular in Ghanaian homes – so make it for lunch or dinner and get stuck in.