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Jollof rice n Chicken –birthday food!
I have decided to have a Food page at the request of my European viewers and lovers of African food. However every food will have a story to it, telling you the found memories or horrible memories I have of the food. First thing to note is that Nigerians loove Pepper, the hotter the better hence the Yoruba adage 'emi ti o je ata, emi yepere’ simply means the more pepper you eat the stronger you become.
I will start with Nigerians favourite food. Jollof Rice. Jollof rice is so common now that when you ask anyone what food they associate with Nigerians it will be Jollof rice. However, when I was growing up that is over 30 years ago!, staying with my grandma in a town called Ondo, a town famously known for eating dogs, where the King of Juju music came from King Sunny Ade and where they have the number 11 tribal mark!
Jollof rice was a special dish cooked when it was your birthday, it was Christmas, a wedding or naming ceremony. Assuredly though there will be one on your birthday. I remember those days like it was yesterday, because you have been dreaming of the day all year, counting months, then counting days and finally the day comes.!
My grandma would have secretly bought me a new dress and new shoes!, Once I had my bath , with a new hair do, I put on my new clothes and shoes all definitely one size bigger so it will last or you can pass down to siblings or relatives!
Then, I get to sit down while my grandma calls all the neighbours telling them its my birthday, my head is already swelling(African joke)meaning I am over excited about the next thing on the agenda. My grandma secretly brings out a live chicken and the ceremony begins!. She touches my head with the Chicken and starts praying! Abaiyeo! ‘Amope, aranoti omo ekunola, wa la noni o, wa gbo, wa to, wa muwe e, wa fu loyinbo, we sehunre, ea fe e ti o, wa toju yie, wa to ju bae o’ everyone will say ‘ase’ meaning amen.
And then everybody is hugging me, the children are envious of my clothes, inspecting it, telling there mum this is what I want etc Then the cooking begins, Jollof rice and chicken! Remember this is no ordinary chicken, this is MY chicken!, I get to eat the thigh! On Jollof rice. Every other day its white rice, but your birthday its special!
I cant express what it is but even now I get excited about those days, the rarity of you eating chicken, Kids are entitled to 2 things in a chicken, the legs and the head, all the rest belongs to the adults in the house (my British kids haven't got a clue what that is!)BUT my Birthday, I get the thigh to myself, the envy of all my siblings, you know they are going to beg for a peace of the thigh, so you bite it and give them a shred!, if they are not happy, they can leave it. I am the queen of the house for that one day, everyone will treat you right, my grandma buys a crate of coke which has 24 bottles, with the jollof rice and one whole chicken soup we share with the family and friends!. I love those days, unlike these days where you buy toys upon toys for the kids and it gets dumped the following day!.
Decades later Jollof rice has become westernised, some add curry, I add pasta sauce to mine!, however , the authentic can still be found back home in Nigeria, when you go into the inner market of Lagos, the bukatarias!, open shed caterers there jollof is to die for, you will see office workers queueing up with plastic bowls to buy rice, dod and fried fish!. God bless Nigeria!
Soo enough of me, what about you, what is the fond memory you have of Jollof rice and Chicken, would love to hear it!
- 2 cups rice (long grained or medium variety)
- ¼ cup groundnut-oil or ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme , if using fresh 2 tbsp would be perfect
- 1 onion , sliced
- 2 -3 garlic cloves (as per taste)
- 1 cup chicken breast , diced not cooked preferably, omit if vegan
- ½ inch piece ginger , peeled and grated
- 1 tablespoon ground paprika (smoked would be ideal)
- 2 tablespoons cayenne , add more if you want it hotter
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste , I love using hunts
- 2 large tomatoes , chopped finely (or 1 small can pureed tomatoes)
- 1 carrot , cubed
- 1 chicken bouillon cube (I love knorr chicken or Maggi)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- peas (You can use frozen mixed veggies)