Some of the most amazing foods that I have ever had come from Africa. From Ethiopa to Morocco, from Nigeria to Senegal, I am in love with the flavors as well as the communal tradition of eating. My all time favorite dish from the African continent has to be Ceebu Jen, the national dish of Senegal. I was dating a wonderful man that was ex-military, had spent quite a bit of time in Senegal, and ended up raising the sons of his best friend. These boys were amazing and hilarious. They called Tony "toubab", which is translated as "ghost skin" or something close to that. They would also cook dinner for us from time to time, and the rice and fish dish that is ceebu jen blew my mind.
I tried to make ceebu jen once, and it was something of a minor fiasco.
So, last night, my friend Bebe was coming to my house for dinner. Bebe is from Cameroon, and I thought I would attempt, again, to make a popular dish from Africa. This time I went after jollof rice, which is probably one of the better known African dishes to people living in the United States. And this time, though I had to modify the recipe a bit so that David, my pescatarian partner, could it. This is close to traditional jollof rice, but I won't claim it is authentic, but it will give you some of the amazing flavors in that tremendous dish from the Mother Land.
Seafood Jollof Rice
2 catfish fillets cubed
1/2 lb uncooked shrimp
1/2 cup sesame oil (regular or hot)
1/2 medium red onion minced
1 bunch parsley minced
5 cloves garlic minced
1 can tomato paste
1/2 can whole stewed tomatoes
4 cups jasmine rice
2 jalapenos minced (also four Thai chili peppers, one habanero or two poblanos would work depending on your tolerance)
2 medium red potatoes cubed (small!)
1/2 pound fresh green beans chopped (again bite sized pieces)
Two teaspoons salt
In a large pot, heat half to the sesame oil. Next throw in the fish and shrimp. Cook for approximately two minutes, just enough to lightly cook both, but not enough to cook them all the way through. Remove the fish/seafood from the oil and set aside.
In the same oil, add the onion, peppers and garlic. Saute them until the onion starts to turn transparent. Next add the parsley and potatoes. Cook until the potatoes start to soften just a bit. Next add the green beans and salt to the mixture, stirring frequently, for the next three to four minutes.
Next add the rice to the pot. At this point, also add the second part of the oil. Stir the mixture together for two to three minutes making sure that all of the rice is integrated with the vegetables. Then stir in the tomato paste. Continue stirring until the tomato paste has been disseminated throughout the rice.
Next, add half of a regular sized can of stewed tomatoes. Using your cooking utensil, chop up the tomatoes as you stir them into the mixture. Do not use the juice from the can, just add the fruit. Continue stirring frequently for about two minutes. Watch to make sure that the heat isn't too high, so that the contents aren't burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Finally, add in three cups of water. Then throw the fish and shrimp into the mixture Stir two or three times IMMEDIATELY but do not stir after that or your rice will get mushy.
Let the contents come to a rigorous boil. Then reduce the heat and let cook for about 15 minutes/until the rice is cooked. Remove from the heat, stir once, and serve.
This amazingly delicious African inspired dish will cost you roughly, depending on the price of fish/seafood in your neck of the woods, $15-$18 and will easily feed 6 to 10 people.
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