Jollof rice, or ceebu jen as it's known in Senegal, is perhaps the best known West African dish because it's delicious, colourful and easy to prepare. It is a little like an African paella made from parboiled long-grain rice, vegetables and meat but without any butter or wine added. It is delicious served hot with fried plantain slices. The recipe calls for African mint (efiri), which you can buy in some plant nurseries – if you can't get it, simply leave it out of the recipe. If you prefer a milder dish, remove some of the seeds from the chillies.
Obe ata (African sauce)
- 5 tomatoes, chopped
- 3 red capsicums, chopped
- 6 small red chillies
- 100 ml red palm-fruit oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 3 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- handful of efiri (fresh African mint) (optional)
- pinch of salt
Fish and rice
- 1 kg firm fish fillets such as marlin, cut into large cubes
- 25 g chilli flakes mixed with 1 teaspoon salt
- 2½ tbsp red palm fruit oil
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 1 red capsicum, chopped
- 1 green capsicum, chopped
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 zucchini (or 2 celery stalks with leaves), chopped
- pinch of salt
- 250 ml water
- 2 cups parboiled long-grain rice
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the obe ata, use a hand-held blender to process the chopped tomato in a bowl. Blend the capsicum and chilli in a separate bowl.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion, shallots, spring onion, celery, African mint and salt and sauté, stirring well, until the onions are translucent. Add the tomato and the capsicum and chilli and cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes.
To make the fish and rice, sprinkle the fish cubes with the chilli flakes and salt and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the carrot, capsicum, tomato and zucchini (or celery) and salt. Cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes until softened a little. Add the fish, water and rice and the obe ata sauce. Gently mix together and bring to the boil. Cover the saucepan and simmer for approximately 45 minutes, until the rice and vegetables are cooked.