Yesterday after our morning tea and eggs and fresh bread, I stayed in Cece's kitchen to help with the preparation of the meal for the school program. Cece made fried chicken and jollof rice and we probably served 40 to 50 people. I ate Jollof rice the first day I was here, I loved it and wanted to learn the recipe.
I was equally curious about how all the prepping, cooking, multitasking goes on to make it all happen. Cece of course has the routine all figured out, she waste no moves, does not expend extra energy in unnecessary steps, watching her is like observing an orchestra conductor. To set the stage, the water is almost always flowing in the background filling one of several buckets, so you always have to know when the buckets are close to being full, so you can trade of for an empty bucket. She had 2 coal pots going at one time, to date I have never seen her use a match. She knows exactly how much coal to place in the pot for it to heat at the right temperature in the right amount of time. At the same time there is chopping, dicing, and probably one or two children coming back to the kitchen area to get a drink of water.
The order of the cooking: chicken first, then the jolof sauce was made and lastly the rice. Lowrinda one of the school teachers was also helping. She cut up all the chicken and rinsed and cleaned twice before it was ready for cooking. The chicken was seasoned with 3 of my all time favorites: onions, garlic and ginger and then a pepper powder that Cece gets at the market. I chopped the onions, (they were purple), I also chopped up tiny green peppers, and lastly long string beans, that go in the rice. Cece smashed the garlic, and the ginger in a clay pot that had tiny ridges in a circular motion .. I will post a picture of the bowl. Then we added the onions and she made paste with all of it that filled the air with a delicious aroma. She added a tiny bit of water to this and poured all over the chicken. The chicken was steamed in a huge huge huge pot. She added two cubes of shrimp flavor and also some spices from a tiny bag you buy at the market.
Once the chicken was cooked she removed from the pan, then the pan was prepared to almost flash fry the chicken. Once the chicken was done it was time to prepare the rue for the jolof. This consisted of fresh tomatoes that had been reduced to a paste by grinding them in the same bowl she did the onions, etc. She added the onions, the tiny green peppers I cut up, some tomato paste and then the red pepper powder from the market. I will have to bring some home. This cooked in the pan for about 20 minutes, it reduced to a thick type of sauce that was removed from the pan to pour over the rice and chicken.
Then at last came the rice. I think Cece cooked at least 25 cups of rice, maybe 30. Again it all fit in this huge pan to perfection. By this time Cece had added more coals to the coal pot, again timing it to meet the needs of whatever she was cooking.
As the preparation was going on, Lowrinda would get a batch full of dishes to wash and she would do this in the appropriate basins for dish washing. All of this is done low to the ground, so they use wooden stools that are made for being low and close to whatever is being worked on.
I told CECE that I think I can replicate the jolof flavor at home. I will go to the market with her on Monday go buy the powder. And yes most of the days, whatever we are going to eat is bought at the market in the morning. I will take pictures, but it is stalls right next to each other, with everything under the sun being sold. Vegetables, smoked fished, meat, chicken, coal, rice, spices, etc.