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Main dishes Togolese cuisine

Griot & Jollof rice

Griot & Jollof rice

During the 1700s the American colonists in South Carolina and Georgia discovered that rice would grow well in the moist, semitropical country bordering their coastline. But the American colonists had no experience with the cultivation of rice, and they needed African slaves who knew how to plant, harvest, and process this difficult crop. The white plantation owners purchased slaves from various parts of Africa, but they greatly preferred slaves from what they called the “Rice Coast” or “Windward Coast”—the traditional rice-growing region of West Africa, stretching from Senegal down to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The plantation owners were willing to pay higher prices for slaves from this area, and Africans from the Rice Coast were almost certainly the largest group of slaves imported into South Carolina and Georgia during the 18th century. What does Jollof rice have to do slavery? Being a US citizen, met a lot of people from all over the world, I have noticed that African and/or American, Haitians have Jollof rice (Red rice or jambalaya) in common.

The jollof is pot of rice loaded with meats, seafood, tomatoes, onion, seasoning and more flavor than you’ll know what to do with. The secret to this one is in carefully orchestrated steps to deepen and build flavor, plus a trip to the oven or steam to guarantee you don’t end up with a burnt layer of rice on the bottom of your pot. Carefully mix tomato puree, onion, seasoning and the right amount of stock to top it up ensures the correct ratio of liquid to rice.

The history of red rice inspired me to combine my West African culture and Haitian experience: Jollof and Griot. Pork griot is one of Haiti’s most loved dishes, and it’s easy to see why. Big chunks of pork shoulder are marinated in citrus and Scotch bonnet chiles, and then simmered until very tender before being fried crisp and brown. The pork still gets charred edges and bronzed surface.

Pork is the world’s most popular type of meat. It’s a rich source of high-quality protein, as well as various vitamins and minerals. Therefore, it may improve exercise performance and promote muscle growth and maintenance. On the negative side, consumption of both under-cooked and overcooked pork should be avoided. Though not exactly a health food, moderate consumption of properly prepared pork can be an acceptable part of a healthy diet.

  • 1.5 kg pork (shoulder Cut in bite size)
  • 1-3 limes (juice) about 2 Tablespoons
  • 5 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoon ginger
  • 3 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
  • 2 Teaspoons salt or more

Marinate the pork with lime juice, salt, chicken bouillon, garlic, ginger, onions, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper.

Let it rest in the fridge for about 2 hours or preferably overnight.

In a saucepan on medium heat, bring to a boil and simmer until tender for about an hour or more.

When pork is tender remove from liquid and any bits of spices, herbs of the pork. Set aside pork.

Fry the pork at 350F (180C) until the pork is crispy.

Using a sieve drain pork liquid, reserve the liquid and discard the rest of the herbs and spices. (I use ice to cool down the mixture and remove the excess oil)

Place pork liquid in a small saucepan on medium add 1 teaspoon tomato paste, 1 cup tomato,  1/4 cup oil, sliced onion and bring to a boil. 

Add the rice (2 cups water for 1 cups jasmine rice). Salt to taste. Add the cut vegetables (carrots and bell pepper).

Stir in rice and boil over medium-high heat until the water evaporates

Be sure the lid fits tightly on the pot. Turn down the heat to its lowest setting. Let the rice simmer for about 18 minutes, then remove from heat and allow the rice to steam in the pot for another 5 minutes.

Serve the rice with the griot.

Notes:

  • Cleaning the pork with vinegar or lemon juice is a test to see if the meat is still good. If the pork smells “off” even after its vinegar or lemon juice bath, chances are it’s not okay to cook.
  • The vinegar or lemon juice tenderizes the pork, cuts down on cooking time, and lets you store pork for a little longer in the fridge if you end up not cooking it the day you prep it.
  • The FDA currently does recommend against rinsing meat, however, in the African/Caribbean, there’s a common practice of rinsing off the meat and fish with a mild acid like lemon or lime juice or vinegar prior to cooking.
  • Before everyone owned a refrigerator, cooks would apply an acidic solution because they believed it killed any bacteria on the bird and to impart a little extra flavor. Currently, many folks use this same technique to get rid of any odors and add flavor to the meat.
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