By Lerato Umah-Shaylor
1. Begin by preparing the kelewele. Cut about 1.5 cm off the tips of the plantain. Make a lengthways incision into the skin and peel the plantain. Halve lengthways, then slice into 1.5–2cm chips.
2. Prepare a marinade by blending all the remaining kelewele ingredients, reserving some of the thyme sprigs for a fresh garnish. Add the plantain chips to the marinade and leave to sit for 20 minutes while you prepare the jollof
3. Make a purée for the jollof rice. Blend all the ingredients together, then heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide saucepan and add the purée. Cook on medium heat for up to 20 minutes, until the purée is reduced and drier in texture.
4. Add the dry spices and smoked paprika to the purée, stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rinsed rice, stock, salt and bay leaf.
5. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
6. Stir the rice well and add a little more water if needed, to completely submerge the rice. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low.
7. Check the rice regularly, carefully pushing the grains from the sides without stirring in order to check for water. Jollof rice needs to be cooked slowly with lots of steam – only add a little water at a time if it dries out. It is okay if it burns a little, as this will help to infuse even more smoky flavour into the rice, and someone will enjoy eating the burnt bits. Overall, it should take no more than 30 minutes to cook.
8. In the meantime, place the marinated plantain chips on a baking tray with as little liquid as possible. Bake for up to 30 minutes, checking at 15-minute intervals. Once cooked, they should be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
9. To serve, fluff the jollof rice with a fork and top with the crisp kelewele. Scatter over a few thyme leaves to garnish.