I discovered this amazing West African rice tradition on the BBC Good Food Programme podcast – it was a heated discussion about a hot dish!
This version is by no means meant to represent the cultural traditions of any of the countries and communities who call this their national dish, it’s just my version of it, using the ingredients I have in the store cupboard. The basis of the modern dish is that is should be made of rice, tomatoes, meat, spices and vegetables. So, pretty general, and each West African community has its own tradition of the dish.
First up, the rice. I use white basmati rice – see my post about basmati rice and how to cook it here – a long grain rice which is very easy to get in the UK. Some recipes use medium grain rice such as risotto rice (Arborio or Carnaroli are common examples). There are something like 40,000 different varieties of cultivated rice so take your pick! In the UK we only see a handful in our shops so experiment and see what you like.
The chilli factor. This is a hot dish, if you are not so keen on the chilli content do reduce the number of dried chillies or chilli powder. You can experiment with other spices if you like (e.g. cumin seeds, coriander seeds, etc).
Other ingredients can be changed as well. Traditional recipes use thyme instead of rosemary and you can add various vegetables if you like. Chicken is commonly added as a protein element either cooked with the rice or added to the dish to serve. In the photos, you will see that I added a cheeky pork sausage or two!
A word about turmeric – this is probably one of my favourite spices as it provides colour, flavour and is one of the best anti-inflammatory ingredients out there (I even put it in coffee!). It should always be accompanied by freshly ground black pepper as they are best friends and the pepper helps your body absorb the turmeric. I will be posting more about turmeric in future posts.
As my wife is allergic to rice I don’t get to eat it very often, I need to sneak it onto my plate when she is not looking as she gets bad FOMO!
130g basmati rice (do not use parboiled or easy cook rice)
1 red pepper, skin and seeds removed
120g fresh tomatoes
Ginger, knob about half a thumb size, grated
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp chilli powder
4 dried mild chillies (such as Kashmiri chillies)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
1 TBSP coconut oil
Pepper, freshly ground
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- We need to make a cooking liquid for the rice, this is made from the tomatoes, onion, red pepper, spices and herbs.
- To peel the pepper: place the whole pepper on a lined baking tray and very lightly coat with oil and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes; once the skin is blistered on all sides, remove and place in a bowl, cover with a plate and leave for 5-10 minutes before peeling and deseeding.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 150C.
- Meanwhile, in an oven proof pan, sweat off the chopped onion in the coconut oil and a pinch of salt on a medium then low heat until translucent and soft with no colour (note this will take about 10 minutes and you should always cover the pan with a lid).
- Place the peeled red pepper flesh, tomatoes (roughly chop if large), grated ginger and a pinch of salt into a mini chopper and blend to a smooth puree. You are aiming to have approx. 190ml – 200ml of liquid so add a little water if required.
- Add the crushed garlic to the onion and cook for approx. 1 minute; then add the chopped rosemary and the powdered spices; cook for 2-3 minutes until aromatic.
- Then add the puree, dried chillies and bay leaf and a grind of fresh pepper.
- Allow the sauce to cook for 5 minutes to allow the flavour to develop and the add the rice; bring to a simmer and then cover with a tight fitting lid or, even better, tinfoil; place in the oven and cook for 30 – 40 minutes.
- Remove the pan and carefully remove the foil/lid (steam will escape) and check that the rice is cooked; serve!