Jollof Arancini

Disclaimer: This is NOT about which country has the best jollof rice.

As a Zimbabwean, jollof rice was relatively unknown to me until my arrival at college in the United States. Feeling homesick, I joined and became an active participant in the Society for African Internationals at Penn (SAIP). SAIP provided a safe space for me at college, a space where I wasn’t met with stares of pity and confusion at the mention of load shedding. However, the peace, love and vibes at SAIP hangouts were often permeated by heated discussions of which African country made the best jollof rice. Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone and more all state their claim to the throne of jollof rice, but who am I to judge? I’m here to appreciate African cuisine in all its forms. If you’d like to learn more about jollof rice, this is a great account of its origin.

Jollof Arancini

For the Jollof Stew:

  • 3 large tomatoes, halved
  • ½ large red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved
  • 1 habanero or scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and halved (can add more or less for heat)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 Maggi or Knorr seasoning cubes

For the Risotto:

  • 2 tbsp butter (or olive oil if making vegan)
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups vegetable stock, hot
  • 75g mozzarella cheese, diced into 1cm cubes (or vegan cheese if making vegan)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, such as Panko
  • ½ cup neutral high-smoke point oil such as canola or vegetable oil

makes 16 – 20 arancini depending on size

Make the jollof stew:

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Lay the tomatoes, red onion, bell pepper and habanero in a single layer on baking sheet. Season with salt and drizzle over olive oil and roast vegetables for 20-25 minutes until slight charred. Add the remaining stew ingredients to the blender and pulse fully blended, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Make the risotto:

Heat the butter (or olive oil) in a large non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onions until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and toss the onions and garlic until coated before pouring in the white wine. Bring to a boil and simmer until the wine has reduced by half, about 6-8 minutes.
Mix in the rice and half a cup of stock and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the stock has almost completely evaporated from the pan before adding in another half cup of stock. Repeat until you’ve used up the stock, making sure to taste after 2 cups for texture. The risotto should be soft but still al dente, use your own judgment but you may not use all the stock.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the blended jollof stew. Remove to a plate or bowl and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight. 

Make the arancini:

Once chilled, wet your hands and take a tablespoon of the risotto and roll it into a ball. Use your thumb to press an indentation into the ball, fill the dent with a cube of mozzarella and use your hands to cover the cheese. Repeat until you’ve used up all the risotto. Add the breadcrumbs to a plate in an even layer. Coat the balls in breadcrumbs by rolling around on the plate until fully covered. 
Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the balls in batches, flipping once at 2 minutes, and drain on paper towels. Serve with extra grated mozzarella and fresh parsley. Enjoy!

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