300g long-grain or basmati rice, thoroughly rinsed
250-400 ml chicken or vegetable stock
6 medium vine-ripened tomatoes or1x 400g can plum tomatoes
2-3 red Romano or bell peppers, stemmed, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 large brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1-2 red or yellow scotch bonnet peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped, or pierced and left whole
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
90ml coconut, rapeseed or vegetable oil
1 small red onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
4-6 sprigs of thyme, some thyme leaves picked and kept for garnish
Place all the purée ingredients in a food processor, except the scotch bonnets, if using whole, and blend to a thick and aromatic puree.
Place the oil in a wide large saucepan, for which you have a tightly fitting lid, and set over a medium heat. Add the red onion and a pinch of fine sea salt. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, until softened and golden. If it starts to get dry, add a little splash of water to prevent the onion from burning.
Stir in the tomato purée and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the purée starts to separate. Add the spices and herbs and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Gently pour in the blended purée, stirring well, cover and cook for up 20-25 minutes, until the purée is reduced to a drier sauce. Keep a close eye on it and stir.
Add the rice and stock (about 250 ml for basmati rice and up to 400ml for long-grain rice), ensuring there is enough water to just submerge the rice. Season with
2 teaspoons of fine sea salt and stir just once. Add the scotch bonnet, if using whole. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer over a medium-
low heat for up to 30 minutes. The sauce must be visibly simmering to ensure the rice cooks properly. Jollof rice is at its best cooked low and slow for
perfectly plumped grains. Check at 15-minute intervals as the rice may start to catch at the bottom. If the sauce dries out and the rice is still not cooked, add a little more water or stock around the edges, gently pushing the grains from the sides to the centre without stirring. A burnt bottom is perfectly acceptable and encouraged as it infuses a wonderful smoky flavour into the grains.
Once the rice is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and leave covered to steam for a few minutes. Fluff with a fork, scatter over the reserved thyme leaves and enjoy your wonderful creation with a fresh salad like Kachumbari with Hibiscus Pickled Onion (see page 160) and Fried or Spiced Roasted Plantains (see pages 278 and 280), because jollof and plantains are a match made in heaven.