Rice is one of Africa’s most well-known staples. It is the most important food crop in West Africa, with over 200 million people relying on it for food.
Rice farming in West Africa
The best soil for growing rice is a fertile dense loamy soil with good water-holding capacity. Even though rice can tolerate both alkaline and acidic environments, the crop is highly sensitive to water. Artificial water systems may be needed to successfully grow rice in drier areas.
The first step in farming rice is the selection of high-quality seeds. High-quality crop seeds are viable, resistant to weed and diseases and produce good yield. The next step is land preparation which involves clearing the land, ploughing and tilling and also levelling to ensure water reaches all areas planted.
For big farmers, land preparation is usually mechanized (tractors).
During crop establishment, a nursery can be set up at first and the seedlings transplanted to the main field after about 30 to 60 days, or the seeds can be directly planted on the main field with no need for a nursery.
It takes rice plants roughly four to five months to reach maturity. Say you planted your rice in May, by September, the grain heads would have been mature enough to be harvested. On average, all things equal, each acre of land will yield more than 3000 kilograms of rice.
Jollof Rice in West Africa
Sixteen (16) African countries make up West Africa and they are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, as well as the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
Jollof rice is prepared in almost all of these countries, with minute variations in preparation and presentation methods.
Nigerian Jollof tends to be redder because more tomatoes and pepper are added.
Ghana Jollof is a bit spicier and often garnished with chopped pieces of pepper and okra (something Nigerians will never do).
Okra is only used in making soup in Nigeria, never added in a salad or consumed raw.
Benin makes a special kind of jollof rice called the Benin vegetarian jollof rice made with dried beans and eggplants and other vegetables.
There have been reports that Senegalese Jollof is the best in Africa and that the meal also originated from there. Other West African countries strongly disagree with this.
While no country will ever admit their jollof rice is inferior, the dish remains one of the few that is found all around West Africa.
Nigeria and Ghana have been at a stiff jollof rice war for many years now, yet the first food anybody from either of these countries would go for on their first visit to the next country is their Jollof rice.
I am of the opinion that no country’s Jollof is the best. Each Jollof is unique in its own way. And that is perhaps the most fascinating about jollof rice – its ability to be twisted into different forms whilst still coming out delicious and acceptable.
Even in one country, ways jollof rice is made can differ between tribes and communities.
General Jollof Rice Recipe
Here are the major ingredients you will need to prepare Jollof rice:
i. 5 cups of white rice
ii. Beef or chicken
iii. Fresh tomatoes
v. Stock cubes
Steps for making Jollof rice:
1. Parboil the rice and set aside
2. Cook the chicken or beef with salt and spices until soft.
3. Separate the chicken or beef and save the broth
4. Using your onions, tomatoes and pepper, prepare a red sauce.
5. Add the parboiled rice and stir evenly.
6. Then pour in the chicken or beef broth and cook the mixture till soft.
7. While your rice is cooking, fry your cooked chicken or beef pieces and set aside.
8. Jollof rice also goes well with fried plantains.
Different servings of jollof rice:
Here are different ways you present your African Jollof:
a. Jollof rice and moi-moi
b. Jollof rice and beans
c. Jollof rice and coleslaw
d. Jollof rice and peppered fish
e. Jollof rice and fried chicken