Jollof rice, also called Benachin, is one of the most common dishes in Western Africa and is consumed throughout the regions of Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Togo, Liberia, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Southern Cameroon. As can be expected, it varies from region to region, but the overall concept, in that it is a one-pot rice dish, remains the same.
Spices used include, fresh green beans, onions, garlic, tons of Maggi stock cubes and carrots that are all stewed together with fresh rosemary or basil, regional peppers, and nutmeg. Assorted oils from groundnut to palm, are also used depending on the location of the kitchen.
Though there has been an active debate for quite a while now, especially between Ghana and Nigeria regarding who makes the better dish, in terms of the origin - the meal actually traces its roots to neither but to Senegal. Regardless, it is so popular and held in such esteem that African slaves took the recipe with them to the America's, though now adding Okra and calling it Gumbo over there.
The Wolof tribe in Senegal have forever been cooking this dish and truth be spoken, are its originators. Their blueprint recipe is called Thieboudienne. It features cabbage wedges and anchovies and is lumpier, which allows them to eat it with their hands and skip spoons and forks.
To make matters short - it is their own swallow.
In Nigeria the rice is cooked in a flavourful tomato and pepper puré and in some cases fortified with a healthy sprinkle of crayfish which gives it a unique yet subtle seafood flavour, that is however not as fishy as the Senegalese version. The Ghanaian rendition is pretty similar to the Nigerian, though their base contains more palm oil which makes the end product a little redder.
Regardless of which style you prefer, the fact is that Jollof Rice is delicious, quick to cook and relatively inexpensive especially if you have access to fresh vegetables. In addition to this, it matches up well with assorted meats from chicken to pork to cow or goat, as well as with fish, and even plain old eggs. The pure vegetarian version is also a delight.