For the Obe Ata
200g tomatoes roughly chopped – tinned or fresh both work fine
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1cm/10g piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/2 red chilli, stemmed, roughly chopped
1 tbsp sunflower or other neutral oil
For the Jollof Rice
1/4 cup sunflower oil or other neutral oil
1 medium red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced – if you’re big into fried onions you could do double this
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Heaped tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1 1/2 cups basmati or Jasmine rice – rinsed well
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 cup stock of your choice
This dish, in many variations, is found all over West Africa. The grains of rice absorb all the flavours of the obe ata sauce making it super rich and vibrant. Although the steps are easy, it does take a little bit of time; Yewande Komolafe who wrote this recipe tells us that jollof rice is usually a party dish – why not throw a party this weekend! It’s commonly eaten alongside a stewed meat of some kind (very delicious with goat) and fried plantain, however, it’s excellent with roast veg, steamed veg, chickpea curries, canned tuna, fried eggs… we could go on.
For the obe ata:
Working in batches if needed, combine all the obe ata ingredients except the canola oil in a blender and purée on high until smooth. The liquid from the tomatoes should suffice, but you can add up to 1/8 cup of water if necessary to get the purée going.
Heat the 1 tbsp sunflower oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the purée, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced to about a cup.
For the rice:
Heat the oven to 170 degrees C. Heat the 1/4 cup sunflower oil in a large oven proof pan for which you have a lid. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently over a medium heat, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove half the onions to a plate and set aside. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, turmeric and smoked paprika, if using, and toast, stirring occasionally, until turmeric is fragrant and tomato paste has deepened to a dark red colour, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the obe ata sauce and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the rice, thyme and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the stock and cover with a lid. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook until rice is just tender, 35 minutes.
Remove the pot from the oven and let sit, covered (no peeking) for 15 minutes. Uncover, fluff the rice with a fork and stir in the reserved sautéed onions. Adjust seasoning, if necessary, and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Serve warm.
Recipe by Yewande Komolafe