This excerpt was originally printed in Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl by Pierre Thiam and Jennifer Sit (Lake Isle Press, 2015).
VEGETARIAN JOLLOF RICE
Serves 4 to 6
Jollof rice, one of the most popular and best-known dishes throughout West Africa, has many countries claiming it as their own. I can proudly, and correctly, say that the dish has Wolof origins, as Jollof is the name of an ancient Wolof kingdom in Senegal. From Senegal, the dish spread and evolved throughout West Africa, inspiring regional preferences. At its simplest, jollof is a tomato-based rice dish, but depending on the region or even the household, the dish can incorporate different meats, seafood, vegetables, and spices. In Senegal, jollof serves as the base of the popular thiebou jenn. This is my vegetarian version, which works perfectly as a side dish or as a main rounded out with a few other dishes.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 cups tomato paste
¼ cup water
3 cups vegetable stock
1 dried bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups basmati rice
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas, thawed
In a large, heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, carrots, tomatoes, tomato paste, and water. Reduce the heat to low and slowly cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent scorching, about 15 minutes or until the oil starts to separate from the liquid and rises to the surface. Add the stock and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for another 10 minutes, until well combined.
Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the rice under running water until the water runs clear. Drain well.
Add the rice to the vegetables and stir with a wooden spoon. Season again with salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and cook undisturbed for an additional 20 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and tender. Add the peas and gently fold the rice to fluff it. Remove the bay leaf and serve hot.