Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cooking Around the World: Jollof Rice {Nigeria}

We haven't ventured very far from our previous country which is directly north of this one. Though both nations - Niger and Nigeria - take their names from the Niger River, which flows through both countries, there are some marked differences.

Niger is about a third larger than Nigeria. While Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with approximately 85 million people, On the flip-side, Niger has a population of just 5 million and is one of the least densely populated countries on the globe. French is the official language of Niger; English is the official language of Nigeria. A majority of people in Niger are Muslim, while over a third of Nigerians are Christian. Nigeria is largely fertile and forested, with many rivers and a long coastline; Niger is predominantly desert and is completely landlocked. By the way, a person from Niger is a Nigerien, while a person from Nigeria is a Nigerian.

map from

Here are some fun facts...
  • Nigeria has two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season.
  • The school year in Nigeria runs from January through December with kids attending for three trimesters each followed by a one month break.
  • Age earns respect in many families. As a mark of honor, an older sibling may be addressed as “Senior Brother” or “Senior Sister” instead of their name. I don't think that would go over very well with Dylan!
  • Traditionally, most Nigerians lived in extended families, either within the same home or in separate homes 
  • Nigeria has some interesting creatures. The rare Sclater's guenon is a small, wiry grey monkey that inhabits swamps and moist forests. And the West African manatee is a thousand-pound water mammal with small flippers and a mouth full of molars
  • October 1 is the biggest holiday in Nigeria, celebrating Nigeria's independence from Great Britain in 1960. Also, Nigeria is Africa's most populous country, accounting for about twenty percent of the continent's people. It's also very diverse - with more than 250 ethnic groups; the largest are the Yoruba, the Hausa and Fulani and the Ibo (Igbo).

While researching recipes for our Cooking Around the World Adventure to Nigeria, I kept seeing the same name over and over again: Jollof. Though this recipe actually originated from rice dishes eaten by the Wolof people of Senegal and Gambia, Nigerians have adopted it as a national favorite. Based on rice, tomatoes and usually meat or fish, it is believed by some to be the origin of Cajun jambalaya. You will also find it spelled 'jolof' or 'djolof' rice. We have eaten something similar when we cooked Guinea Fowl Paella from Equatorial Guinea. But this is the Nigerian version...and I love that I get to use the green beans from my friend Marne's garden. Thanks for the delivery!


splash of olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
5 C water
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
1 red bell pepper, trimmed and chopped
3 C rice (I used a mixture of white and brown basmati rice.)
4 medium-sized tomatoes, destemmed and sliced
2 C green beans, trimmed and sliced
1/2 C chopped kale (Traditionally, they use cabbage. I had kale in my CSA box.)
freshly ground sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil over medium flame in a large pot. Add in the leeks and chicken, stirring until the meat is browned on all sides. Add in the all of the other vegetables, stirring until they are coated in oil. Add in the rice and cover with the water. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

These Global Table Ambassadors are signing off for now. We're headed to Norway next. Looks as if Dylan will get his wish. Tonight he bemoaned, "Mom, are we going to get to a country that has seafood soon?" Yes!

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