There are memories and stories to every dish, and for me, the Native Jollof rice dish reminds me of those family trips we made to my parents village in the Middle Belt part of Nigeria. Upon every arrival, my maternal grandmother always greeted us with one of two dishes: native jollof rice or cassava meal served with ukhoyo soup (a soup native to the Igala tribe in Kogi State, I have so much to say about this soup… the finesse and skill that is required to eat it, and how long it took me to master the skill,O boy! However I will leave that story for another day).
I was always glad to eat either of the two dishes because they always tasted so good! However, I did not enjoy the culture of eating together with my siblings and cousins in a large tray-like plate outside my grandma’s kitchen, because that meant that some people had taken in three spoons of rice while you were still chewing on your your first spoon…I don’t know why the adults made us eat together, ’cause If it was meant to foster bonding, I hardly think it did. At that point in time, anyone who ” gulped down” their spoons of rice faster than you,was no friend at all. Thank God for growing up, those days are far behind me now:)
Now back to subject, where I come from,what makes native jollof rice very unique and distinctly tasty are the 3 ingredients that are absolutely necessary for its preparation: smoked fish, crayfish, and fermented locust beans (called ukpehie by Igalas, iru by Yorubas, ogirri by Ibos, and dawadawa by Hausas,all are tribes in Nigeria). If it lacks any one of these ingredients, then it is not truly native jollof for an Igala woman like me.
I love this rice dish, not just because of its unique taste and aroma, but also because it is not that difficult to prepare and requires less cooking time when compared to the tomato jollof rice. So, how do I make my native jollof rice dish?
- 2 cups of rice
- 1/2 cup of whole crayfish or 2 tbspns of dry ground crayfish
- 1 medium sized smoked fish
- ukpehie (I am yet to figure what other name this ingredient is called, because it is only native to my tribe in Nigeria (Igalas)
- 1 large tomato (optional)
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper/atarodo or 1/2 tsp dry pepper (optional)
- 2 onions
- 2-3 seasoning cubes e.g. knorr, maggi etc.
- Palm oil (optional)
- Vegetable oil
- 6-8 chunks of beef
- 1/2 cup green vegetables e.g. spinach or preferably efo or ugwu (optional) I used green peas for this particular recipe since I had no green vegetables at the time.
- 1/2 tspn minced garlic and ginger (optional)
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- Wash your meat and rice seperately and set aside
- Clean your crayfish, if it is still in in the whole unground form and then grind/puree the crayfish in a blender with one onion, the tomato, ukpehie/pepper and some water. Set the crayfish puree aside
- Slice your 2nd onion and green vegetables into tiny pieces
- To clean your smoked fish, boil some water, then soak the fish in the boiled hot water for about 2 mins, then it will be softer and easier to take apart. Remove the bones and other inedible parts then break the edible part into little pieces and set aside
- Boil your meat in some water, add about two tbspns of your sliced onions,one seasoning tablet, the minced garlic and ginger and little dry pepper. Let it boil till it is cooked, then set aside
- In a saucepan, parboil your rice for about 5 minutes on medium heat, drain the water and set aside
- Put your vegetable oil and palm oil into a sauce pan on medium heat and heat it up, add your remaining sliced onions and saute/fry them for about 2 mins or until they become slightly brown
- Then add your beef and beef stock, seasoning cubes, salt, dry fish, and crayfish puree/blend. Add some extra water and let the mixture boil for about 2 mins
- Add your parboiled rice and mix it in with a wooden spoon. Let the rice boil for about 10-15 minutes or until it is soft enough to eat
- Just before your turn the heat off, stir in your chopped green vegetables and some onion. Cover the pot and let it boil for 2 more minutes
- Then your dish is ready to be served
NOTE: Unlike the tomato jollof rice which turns out red because of the tomatoes, the native jollof rice dish turns out brown because of the dryfish and crayfish in it.If you increase the quantity of tomatoes and palm oil, then your rice dish will have a more reddish colour like the tomato jollof rice