Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They came back from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
Have you heard this limerick? This was among my favourites growing up. The other favourites were There was a young lady of Lynn and A flea and a fly in a fleu (by Ogden Nash). Did you like reading/reciting limericks when you were growing up? There was something about these silly-sounding five-liners that I really loved!
And you know the funny thing? All along I thought the ‘Niger’ must be poetic license for Nigeria. Imagine my surprise, when after all these years I realised last week that there was actually a country called Niger! It lies north of Nigeria and shares borders with Algeria, Chad and Libya, among others. Thanks to the current alphabetic Blogging Marathon I’m taking part in, I learnt about a new country. And so I decided N for Niger it will be.
Finding a suitable vegetarian dish wasn’t that easy though. Converting a non-vegetarian dish into a vegetarian one by skipping the meat or replacing it with legumes, paneer, roasted vegetables was definitely an option, but I really was tired of the substitution game. And while googling, I came across a blog post where the author talks excitedly about a rice dish she was offered by her friend from Niger and how awesome it was. So I started reading up (online, of course) on Jollof rice. With tomatoes for base, this rice was sure to be a winner at home and so I went right ahead with it.
I used the recipe from BBC Foods, but referred to two articles on Jollof rice that I found very good. Although they are both written by Nigerians (ie. people from Nigeria, not Niger), there are many tips and tricks to get the dish right that I found very useful. I served the rice with fried plantain and a simple crisp green salad as suggested by the book. The dish tasted not quite different from how you’d rustle up a simply tomato-onion mixed rice, only it was tangier and the addition of thyme gave it a unique flavour.
Interestingly, although this Jollof rice is popular all over Niger and Nigeria, the dish is actually Senegalese in origin – from the Wolof tribe of Senegal to be precise. My father spent a good six years in Senegal and so this was one dish I just did not want to miss trying. I asked father about this dish, but he had not heard of it, as he had hardly eaten any local food since it was predominantly non-vegetarian.
(Adapted from BBC GoodFood)
Oil – 1 tbsp
Onion – 1 (medium) sliced
Tomatoes – 4 (medium)
Red capsicum – 1 (small)
Paprika powder – ¼ tsp
Curry powder – ½ tsp (I used sambhar podi)
Dried thyme – ¼ tsp
Parboiled rice – 1 cup
Finely chop one tomato. Process the rest of the tomatoes into a fine puree. You can strain to discard the tomato seeds if you wish
Slice the onion, Dice the re capsicum
Heat oil in a saucepan. Add onion, sambhar podi and paprika powder
Add tomatoes and cook till tomatoes turn mushy
Add rice, thyme and salt
Cover with a lid and cook till all the water from the tomatoes evaporates
Serve with fried plantains and a crisp green salad
For more recipes from countries starting with the letter N, check out this link: