This is a little story about how we spent our Christmas and a jollof rice recipe.
We didn’t really plan for a Christmas dinner this year. Well, we sort of had a conversation about a menu months ago but couldn’t remember because we forgot to write it down.
A week or so to Christmas, I was at a dinner where a group of friends were reminiscing about past holidays when someone mentioned how much they missed their grandmother’s rice and peas. This had me thinking of the jollof rice my grandmother used to make at Christmas time, and how wonderful it’ll be if we made a big pot of jollof and served it in my grandmother’s Pyrex bowl at Christmas.
Once we decided we were going to make jollof, we built our dinner around it, adding oven-baked plantains and roasted salmon with a pickled fennel salad.
Our Christmas was quiet but pleasant. We opted to sleep in and opened presents late in the afternoon, which I surprisingly liked better than the early morning rush to open presents, it felt relaxing and indulgent.
I also liked that I didn’t have to cook on Christmas. I know I have a food blog and all, but when it comes to family gatherings, I usually leave the cooking to the more seasoned cooks; my sweet sister offered to oversee dinner and I happily obliged. All I did was play music, set the table and make drinks.
I’ve written about my grandmother’s jollof before, it was integral to my childhood Christmases.
We wanted to bring the flavours we remembered from her jollof, like pepper and smokiness from the open wood-burning fire the rice was cooked over.
The rice came out robust, fragrant and spicy, making the sweet plantains an excellent side.
We’ve been roasting plantains in the oven for a while now, I actually prefer to the traditional method of frying since it works quite well. We roasted salmon too, using this easy recipe and the accompanying vinegary fennel salad, which turned out to be rather fantastic!
I loved that our Christmas was super laid-back this year, and a little different, and that we brought a little bit of home and old traditions into our celebration.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 28-oz whole plum tomatoes with juice or about 3 cups chopped tomatoes, pureed
- 2 – 3 bell peppers roasted with 3 garlic cloves, and blended (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons harissa paste
- 1 tablespoon Baharat or Ras el hanout optional
- 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 cups brown basmati rice, rinsed (regular basmati or parboiled rice will work too)
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 – 3 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1 teaspoon salt (omit or use less for broth with sodium)
- Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat
- Add coriander and cumin when oil is hot, and fry, stirring occasionally until spices are fragrant, about 1 – 2 minutes
- Add onions and sauté for a few minutes until onions start to soften
- Add tomatoes, bell pepper mixture and harissa paste and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, the oil should get a slight reddish hue
- Stir in Baharat or Ras el hanout (if using) and smoked paprika
- Add rice, stir to coat completely and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring intermittently
- Add carrots and vegetable broth ( use 2 to 2½ cups for firmer chewier rice and up to three cups if you prefer softer rice) and salt, stir and bring to a boil, check seasoning and add more salt if needed
- Lower heat, cover and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, then stir rice again, reduce heat further and keep covered tightly (use aluminum foil if necessary) and let the steam cook the rice the rest of the way, about 10 – 15 minutes until rice is cooked through and all the liquid is absorbed
- Fluff with a slotted ladle and serve with your favourite sides
- To roast bell peppers, wash, pat dry and cut about 2 – 3 red bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membrane
- Arrange them in a single layer with 3 cloves of garlic on a foil lined baking tray
- Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt to taste, use brush or hands to rub oil and salt in
- Roast for about 20 minutes; do not let it blacken (a few spots are ok)
- Wrap in foil and set aside until ready to be blended for jollof