Riz aux Épinard Recipe: A Green Rice Dish from Congol

This Riz aux Epinard recipe makes for the perfect vegetarian side dish. White rice is cooked with spinach, okra and garlic to add extra flavour and nutritional punch.

Riz aux Epinard | Vegetarian Congolese Rice

Overview of the Congo

Before starting this challenge, I never realised just how confusing country names could be. Congo, for instance, is not just referred to as Congo. It also goes by  “the Congo”, “the Republic of Congo”, “the Congo Republic” and “Congo-Brazzaville”. This gets rather tricky when we are trying to cook a dish from every country in the world in alphabetic order. For the purposes of this exercise, we shall go with the simple “Congo” to refer to this Central African nation.

Located on the West Coast of Africa, Congo has a population of 5.2 million. The region was dominated by Bantu-speaking tribes for thousands of years. More recently, the Congo was part of the French colony of Equatorial Africa. In 1960, the nation gained its independence from France.

For over 20 years it was a Marxist-Leninist state, but since 1992 it has had multi-party elections. The country has become the fourth-largest oil producer in the Gulf of Guinea. Although this has provided some prosperity to the country, due to political instability and corruption, this wealth has been very unevenly distributed throughout the country.

History of Congolese Cuisine

Most of Congo is covered with tropical rainforest and the climate is characterised by heavy precipitation and high temperatures. Only two percent of the land is cultivated, with this farmland used for crops such as maize, rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and nuts. Native fruits, mushrooms, honey, bushmeats and fish are also gathered and hunted and used in Congolese cuisine.

Most meals tends to feature a starchy ingredient, such as fufu, which is a mash made of cassava, or kwanga, which is a type of fermented bread. A stew made of vegetables or meat normally accompanies the starch. Although complete vegetarianism is uncommon, many meals are meat-free due to its high price. Instead, edible insects, mushrooms or nuts are eaten as sources of protein.

Popular Congolese Vegetarian Dishes

  • Fufu- Popular throughout the entirety of Africa, fufu is a porridge made of pounded cassava, plantains or yams.
  • Fumbwa stew– This Congolese stew is made from a wild spinach called fumbwa that is boiled with tomato, onions and palm oil.
  • Dabo kolo– Famous in Ethiopoia, dabo kolo are small pieces of fried bread made of roasted barley, chickpeas and peanuts, which has also gained popularity in the Congo.
  • Madesu– This dish consists of beans that are cooked in water before being fried in palm oil and tomato sauce.
  • Mikate– Another popular snack, these round fried dough balls are often served dipped in peanut butter and sprinkled with sugar.
  • Potage de Riz aux Épinard- Rice cooked with spinach and okra.

Riz aux Epinard | Vegetarian Congolese Rice

Making Congolese Green Rice (Riz aux Épinard)

Rice is a pretty remarkable grain. This cooking challenge alone has demonstrated just how many different forms it can take. From porridge to doughnuts to waffles, the forms rice can take on are as endless as a paddy field. Now, the Congolese recipe we chose to make doesn’t utilise rice in a particularly fanciful way. Instead, it adds a little extra pizzaz to rice in its most common form: as a humble side dish. Spinach and okra are simply cooked with the rice, which makes it perfect for adding (or sneaking) in some extra greens to a meal.

Riz aux Epinard | Vegetarian Congolese Rice

How to make Congolese Green Rice (Riz aux Épinard)

This Congolese green rice is ridiculously easy to make, only taking 5 minutes longer to prepare than regular white rice. It comes together in 2 easy steps:

  1. In a medium pan with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add in garlic, spinach, okra and salt and pepper, sauté for 5 minutes until spinach has wilted and okra has softened, stirring regularly.
  2. Stir in 1 cup of rice and 1 3/4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to gentle simmer, then cover pan with lid and cook for 20-25 minutes, until all water is absorbed and rice is tender.
Riz aux Epinard | Vegetarian Congolese Rice

Ingredient notes for Congolese Green Rice

  • Spinach- We used fresh baby spinach in our green rice but you can substitute for frozen spinach if needed, or any other type of leafy greens such as swiss chard or kale.
  • Okra- We used frozen okra for this recipe, which we found in the frozen section of the supermarket. If you can find fresh okra, this is a good substitute.

Serving suggestions for Potage de Riz aux Épinard

We served our Congolese green rice with chicken moambe (made with a vegetarian chicken substitute), a recipe that we will be posting at a later date. However, it would work as a side dish with any type of protein or vegetables.

Riz aux Epinard | Vegetarian Congolese Rice

Riz aux Épinard Recipe: Green Rice from Congol

Yield: 3
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Green rice (Riz aux Épinard) makes for the perfect vegetarian side dish. White rice is cooked with spinach, okra and garlic to add extra flavour and nutritional punch.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup okra, thinly sliced
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 vegetable stock cube

Instructions

  1. In a medium pan with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add in garlic, spinach, okra and salt and pepper, sauté for 5 minutes until spinach has wilted and okra has softened, stirring regularly.
  2. Stir in 1 cup of rice,1 3/4 cups of water and vegetable stock cube and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to gentle simmer, then cover pan with lid and cook for 20-25 minutes, until all water is absorbed and rice is tender.
  3. Serve immediately.

Notes

Recipe inspired by International Cuisine

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