I have had some requests for a vegetarian jollof rice, which is what I will be sharing with you today. For those who do not know, jollof is one of the most popular African one-pot rice dishes. This scrumptious dish of rice steamed in a pepper, tomato and onion sauce is so loved that no party is complete without it in most West African countries.
If you look at the main ingredients for jollof rice, it a perfect vegetarian/vegan dish. However, it is usually cooked with meat stock or meat stock cubes to get the signature taste, which then makes it unsuitable for vegetarians. This vegetarian jollof rice with kale and mushrooms has the delicious, bold flavours typically associated with jollof, but is suitable for vegetarians and vegans – I mean why leave other people out of the party right?
The addition of kale and mushrooms makes this African vegetarian dish more nutritious. Kale is rich in vitamin C, while mushroom is rich in vitamin D. Both vitamins are known to have immune boosting properties which are needed for these times we are in. The mushroom also adds an earthy, umami flavour to the vegetarian jollof rice, which takes the dish up a notch in taste. Having said that, please feel free to substitute the spinach and kale with your preferred vegetables.
How To Cook Vegetarian Jollof Rice
When I first started cooking, my jollof rice did not taste like “jollof” at all and it took me a while to realise that it was because I did not get the sauce right. I have since found that a critical part of cooking jollof is the sauce that the rice is steamed in. This is where all the classic jollof taste and flavours develop. If your sauce is done well, you should perceive the “jollof” aroma even before the addition of the rice to the sauce.
You can use any type of rice to prepare this vegetarian jollof recipe; you just need to be aware of how much water and the length of time required to cook the rice. In fact, you can replace jollof with bulgur wheat, couscous or other types of grains.
I never parboil my rice, because it is another step in the cooking process for which I do not see clear added value in the finished dish. What I do is to wash the rice in warm water until the water is clear, which helps to get rid of excess starch. Jollof rice requires a little quantity of water to start off the cooking; this is followed by steaming under low heat until the rice is fluffy and done.
Finally, I added some smoked paprika to give the slightly “smoky” taste typically associated with traditionally cooked over firewood.
Caribbean rice and beans is another delicious vegetarian rice dish you can try.
Vegetarian Jollof Rice With Kale and Mushrooms
- 1 Red Bell Pepper big
- 1 Scotch bonnet optional
- 1 Beef Tomato if smaller, you may need to increase quantity
- 1 Onion medium
- 3 tablespoons Sunflower oil
- 1 Onion medium, chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 2 Bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon Dried thyme – ½ teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon Mild curry powder
- 1 tablespoon Tomato Puree
- 1 cup Rice raw
- 1 cup Vegetable stock
- 50 g Kale or a handful, thick stem removed and finely sliced
- 6 Chestnut mushroom or other varieties, sliced.
- Salt to taste
- Remove the stalk from the bell peppers and scotch bonnet. Wash along with the tomatoes.
- Cut into smaller pieces and pour in blender.
- Peel and cut the onion. Add into the blender too.
- Blend all the ingredients.
- Heat the oil in a pot under medium heat.
- Add the onions and cook until translucent. Pour the garlic in while stirring continuously for around 30 secs.
- Pour in the blended pepper, tomato and onion mixture into the pan. Add the tomato puree.
- Add the curry powder, thyme, bay leaves and smoked paprika. Stir with a wooden spoon
- Cover the pot and allow the sauce to cook under low heat. Stir regularly to prevent burning. This should take about 30 mins, at which point the sauce will have reduced and become thicker.
- Wash the rice under warm water until the water is clear.
- Pour the rice into the pot and add the vegetable stock.
- Pour in enough water to cook the rice (follow the pack instruction – take into consideration the liquid stock).
- Add some salt to taste and cover the pot. Bring the heat to medium.
- Leave the rice to cook for about 10 mins, then add the mushroom and kale.
- Stir to mix the vegetables with the rice. Cover the pot and reduce the heat.
- Check the rice every few minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.
- If the rice grains are not cooked to your liking, add a small quantity of water (about a quarter of a cup at a time), then cover the lid and check again after few minutes.
- You want the rice to be fluffy, with grains separated; and not stuck together.
- Remove from heat and serve.