As is tradition, starting the new year’s resolution on the first Monday of January (even though it’s the 5th)

Hey everyone! So here’s my first recipe of the year – Jollof-inspired rice with chicken. I picked it for two reasons. One, because it has okra in it, and every since staying with a family in Nepal who cooked it I’ve been a little bit in love with okra (or ‘lady fingers’ as they’re sometimes called). It’s a bit of a love/hate vegetable, it’s quite slimey but can be delicious when cooked right! It was quite easy to find in Sainsbury’s too. Second, it’s the kind of recipe which – other than the okra – has the kind of ingredients that I tend to have anyway, which means that it doesn’t require lots of effort or a big last minute food shop to make.

Now I don’t want to do a Jamie Oliver and offend West Africans with this recipe – I didn’t consciously pick the most controversial recipe of the moment! The one I’ve adapted does seem to have a bit of an Indian twist due to the addition of okra and coriander, but I think that gives it a bit more flavour. Don’t worry though, unlike Jamie’s there is no lime in it. Fortunately this blog is most likely not far reaching enough to extend beyond my mum reading it, let alone another continent! This recipe makes enough for about 3-4 people (depending on how big you like your portions), which means that if like me you love having some leftovers for later on in the week after a particularly long day at work or for the freezer it’s perfect.

Ingredients:

– 4 skinless & boneless chicken thighs, chopped

– salt and pepper

– vegetable oil, for frying

– 1 large onion, thinly chopped (I prefer red onions for taste and aesthetics)

– 1 can of chopped tomatoes (400g)

– 2 garlic cloves

– 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

– 1 scotch bonnett chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (or 1 generous tsp cayenne pepper)

– 1 chicken stock cube

– 1 cup of basmati rice

– 2 peppers (red/ yellow/ orange), deseeded and sliced

– 100mg okra, halved, with the tops and tails sliced off

– Bunch of fresh coriander, chopped and 1 tsp dried coriander (just use 2 tsp of dried coriander if you don’t have fresh)2015-01-05 18.18.19

A note on some of these ingredients:

– Chicken. I always use chicken thighs because they are both cheaper and tastier than chicken breasts, which have a tendency to be quite dry. Make sure you get skinless thighs though – many hours of my life were wasted at uni skinning them myself and it’s a bit of a pain!

– Peppers. I tend to get one of the three packs with yellow, red and orange. Again, this works out cheaper than buying them separately but it’s also an easy way to bring a bit of colour to a dish. You can easily just use a chunk of each, mix and match.

– Cayenne pepper. A brilliant substitute for chillies if you don’t have any in the house, and a good way of monitoring spiceyness for those of you with a lower heat tolerance. The generous tsp I’ve recommended gives it a fair kick, although spice lovers may want more and some may want to tone it down.

Let’s get started then! It’s a nice easy one.

1. Once you’ve got all your vegetables and chicken chopped up, you’d ideally want to find yourself a nice big deep pan with a non-stick surface. Then, you can season the chicken and fry it up in some oil. It should only need a couple of minutes, just until it’s browned. When it has, remove the chicken from the pan and keep it to one side.

2. In the same pan, fry the onions for a few minutes until soft. You may want to use some more oil for this.

3. When the onions are soft, add the canned tomatoes and chopped up chillies (or cayenne pepper if using). Then finely grate the ginger and the 2 gloves of garlic into the sauce. By grating these, it takes away the requirement of having to blend up the sauce and is a great way of making sure you don’t get uninvited bursts of fairly intense tastes when you’re trying to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Unfortunately, it doesn’t overcome the problem of your fingers smelling like garlic after cooking. Can’t win them all.

4. Add the chicken back into the pan, crumble in the stock cube, add 600ml of water and bring to the boil. Then simmer for around 10-15 minutes. While you’re waiting, you can measure out the rice. And if like me you opened the pack a little bit too aggressively, it’s also a great time to clear up the rice that flew all over your kitchen. I always use cup measurements for rice – around one cup seems to be ideal for 4 people, and when cooking it separately from the meal just double up the amount of water. I.e. one cup of rice = cooked with two cups of water. Ideally, you’d want to rinse the rice in a sieve. I live in a rented flatshare where it’s not always possible to locate a sieve – and it’s really not the end of the world if you can’t either!

5. Add the rice! if you’re using dried coriander, I’d add it in now. Leave fresh coriander till the end. Then turn the heat down and leave it to simmer for around 15 minutes. It’s important to leave the lid on here, allowing it to steam. Apparently, the West African tradition is to let the rice burn a little to the bottom. When you add the peppers and okra 10 minutes later, you’ll also want to keep it covered so that the vegetables can soften in the steam. If using fresh coriander, scatter the roughly chopped leaves over the dish and serve.

Tada!

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So I should’ve probably started off with a more impressive looking dish hm? It’s not a show stopper in the looks department, but it tastes good, the okra adds something a little different and is fairly easy to make.

It’s a keeper!

Adapted from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4750/jollof-rice-with-chicken 

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