Main dish • Savoury
For Christmas, all my uncles, aunties, cousins and close relatives would travel from different parts of Nigeria to our country home to celebrate the holidays with my granny before she passed in 2003. My family – my brothers and I – never missed the Christmas trip as well. This used to be granny’s Christmas special for the entire family after the Christmas church service. I don’t cook much but this has remained a clan tradition until this day.
In a blender, combine tomatoes, red poblano (or bell) peppers, chopped onions and Scotch bonnets with 2 cups of stock. Blend until smooth, about a minute or two. You should have roughly 6 cups of blended mix.
Pour into a large pot or pan and bring to a boil, then turn down and let it simmer, covered for 10 to 12 minutes.
In a large pan, heat oil and add the sliced onions. Season with a pinch of salt, stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add bay leaves, curry powder and dried thyme and a pinch of black pepper. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on medium heat. Add tomato paste and stir for another 2 minutes.
Add the reduced tomato-pepper-Scotch bonnet mixture, stir. Cook on medium heat, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes until reduced by half. This is the stew that will define the pot.
Add 4 cups of the stock to the cooked tomato sauce and bring it to boil for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the rinsed rice and butter and stir. Cover with a double piece of foil or parchment paper and put a lid on the pan. This will seal in the steam and lock in the flavour. Turn down the heat and cook on low for 30 minutes.
Stir rice, taste and adjust seasonings as required. If you like, add sliced onions, fresh tomatoes and the second teaspoon of butter and stir through.
Once the rice is cooked, turn up the heat with the lid on and leave to “burn” for 3 to 5 minutes. You’ll hear the rice crackle and snap and it will smell toasted. Turn off the heat and leave with the lid on to “rest” till ready to serve. The longer the lid stays on, the smokier it will be.