Healthy, good value desk lunches don’t have to be repetitive and uninspiring. Borough Market blogger Victoria Brown offers her tips for easy, delicious and internationally inspired packed lunches. This month: jollof rice with chicken
Jollof rice is perhaps the most popular dish in west Africa. You will find it at every large social gathering and small ones too. In Nigeria, you can even get it as a side dish at KFC.
It is said to have originated in Senegambia and to be named after the Wolof tribe, but like any such claims when it comes to food, this is fiercely debated by other west African nations. I have heard a Ghanaian and a Nigerian argue for almost an hour about where jollof rice is really from and who makes it best (their mums, of course).
The recipe is almost as hotly contested as the dish’s origins and it varies from place to place. My friend Tunde, who is a British-born Nigerian, taught me this version. It’s his family recipe, which has been handed down the maternal line for generations. He was very secretive about it at first, but he soon changed his mind when I told him I was going to share the recipe on the Borough Market website.
Jollof rice is usually served as a side dish in a large spread alongside fried fish; meats, usually beef or chicken; and vegetable dishes, such as fried plantain. Tunde told me that the meat is often cooked in the same sauce as the rice, which gave me the idea of roasting the chicken in some of the sauce. It worked a treat.
I have used less oil in this recipe than Tunde does. It is still a lot, but it really is necessary in order to ensure the rice doesn’t clump together. For the same reason he recommends using a robust rice, like easy cook long grain. It will inevitably stick to the bottom of the pan though, so don’t use your favourite pot.
This recipe makes enough rice for a large family gathering so, if you’re just making it for yourself, you’ll have enough for a week. Tunde told me that jollof rice always tastes better reheated the next day—and he’s right—so it really is the ultimate packed lunch.
Read Babatunde’s recipe for jollof rice with chicken