For many West Africans “J is simply for Jollof” and nothing else comes close! This humble rice dish sometimes called jellof is so loved that when a popular TV chef tried to recreate the dish with his own twist it created a major online backlash / debate from many West Africans, so much so that it got the attention of major news outlets like the BBC.
So what is so special about jollof? For me jollof is not just about how tasty the dish is, it is about the memories it conjures up. It brings back memories of home cooked meals and memories of family get-togethers. For many West Africans, a party is not complete without jollof.
Jollof or jellof is traditionally long grain or basmati rice cooked in tomatoes, peppers and spices. It is usually served as an accompaniment to a main dish like stewed beef, baked chicken, grilled fish or stewed beans (also known as red red). A side dish of fried plantain or salad will usually (also) get featured in the mix.
If you are looking to get introduced to West African food, jollof rice is definitely the place to start!
Esther Josiah is the founder of béllé-full and London’s leading Nigerian catering company Mrs J Foods. She answers 3 questions about béllé-full.
How did you come about the idea for béllé-full?
Prior to summer 2012 I was working full time as an IT Marketing Manager. I loved my job but as a mum I didn’t have enough time for everything. I found myself compromising on what my little family ate because I simply wasn’t able to create spare time in my very busy schedule to cook. As a big foodie and one that particularly loves West African food, this was very difficult for me. I started researching options online – possibly a website I could buy West African cooking ingredients thereby saving me some time over the weekend? Or maybe a reliable company I could easily buy ready prepared West African meals from online? I found nothing that was to the standard I was expecting, this was how the idea to start my own food business was born.
What next steps did you take?
I had no experience running a food business so I had to start from scratch. I had to understand how the business works, get myself trained up and acquire all the necessary qualifications required. Once I got all those sorted, I started off by running an online shopping website I called My Afro Food Store. Customers could buy cooking ingredients on the site but I also offered a range of ready meals under the brand name Mrs J Foods… the ready meals proved to be hugely popular! Shortly after, we started getting inundated with catering requests from customers. Fast forward to early 2013, we had acquired our kitchen premises in Charlton and took on our first catering job. The event was very successful and the feedback was amazing!
We were still trading under the name of our ready meal products Mrs J Foods at the time, and due to the amount of catering requests we were receiving we decided to focus the brand Mrs J Foods on catering, specialising in luxury West African and afro fusion food. Mrs J Foods continues to be a huge success catering at some of the finest venues in London including The Lanesborough, Knightsbridge and The Houses of Parliament to mention a few.
Despite the change in direction of the business we kept on receiving enquiries from clients looking to stock up their fridge / freezer for the week, and clients requiring food to entertain a few guests at home. This is why we decided to launch béllé-full, to easily cater to the needs of these clients. With Béllé-Full our customers can now easily place their order online – choose the dishes they’d like to order, pick their preferred delivery date, make payment online and sit back whilst we get their food ready to be delivered directly to their door across mainland UK.
What is your grand vision for béllé-full?
People are now more open to trying African food in the UK with London leading the way in this adoption. This interest is being fuelled by various amazing “foodpreneurs”, many of them previous city professionals who have decided to take the plunge and give it a go.
We are very excited to be a part of this African food revolution and our grand vision is to see béllé-full at the forefront of this change. We think every household needs to experience the goodness of jollof! 🙂
It has been a lot of hardwork but we got there in the end! Béllé-Full is now live and open for business! 🙂
So what is béllé-full?
Béllé-Full pronounced ‘bell-air full” is a West African word used to describe a state of complete satisfaction after a delicious meal. And that is what our goal is, we are offering this complete satisfaction without the stress associated with cooking.
We supply the UK with authentic, freshly prepared West African meals, fresh-chilled for nationwide delivery. The idea is for you to stock up your fridge and freezer for later so you don’t have to worry about what you or your family will be eating during the week, giving you time to focus on more important things. Or you could gift one of our meal boxes to a friend or family member who is unable to make their own meals or deserves a much needed break from the kitchen. Having a small get-together? Our entertaining options offers you a stress free alternative to spending hours in the kitchen preparing for your guests.
Our freshly prepared meals are delivered to customers across mainland UK – that’s all of England, Scotland & Wales. Once cooked, we portion your béllé-full meals in BPA-free food pouches, and these go in a special chiller that cools down the food very quickly in minutes. Doing this locks in all the freshness with absolutely no need for nasty preservatives. Your food is then dispatched to you packed in our special insulated boxes that keeps the food in fridge temperatures during transit, maintaining the freshness. The boxes are delivered to you using our carefully selected delivery partners with many years experience working with various leading food businesses. We ensure freshness at every stage so your food arrives to your door in the best possible quality.
Who is behind béllé-full?
We are an extension of London’s leading Nigerian catering company Mrs J Foods. Mrs J Foods was founded by Esther Josiah a previous marketing exec who found an unfilled niche in the food industry for a boutique Nigerian & Afro Fusion caterer. Launched in 2012, Mrs J Foods has quickly become an industry leader catering at some of the most exclusive venues in the UK including The Houses of Parliament & hotels like The Lanesborough, Knightsbridge to mention a few. Mrs J has built a reputation for excellent food and service and we are really looking forward to bringing our wealth of experience directly to your kitchen.
We’d love to hear from you so if you have any queries or simply want to say hi, please drop us an email at email@example.com.
From your team at béllé-full!
We really enjoyed being a part of this year’s Africa @ Spitafields. We handed out little cups of jollof rice, stewed beef and fried plantain samples, and they were a big hit! We ran out of free samples before the event was over and we had people offering to pay to get more samples which was fantastic!
With such positive reception & feedback, we are looking forward to (hopefully) being a part of the next event, with more samples this time round. 🙂
Africa @ Spitafields is the ultimate yearly African Inspired Pop Up Retail Event returns to Spitalfields. Spitalfields is transformed into a African-inspired shopping experience, celebrating the vibrant and very distinctive culture while showcasing the talents from Africa and the Diaspora.
Here are some more pictures from the event.
Were you in attendance on the day? We’d love to know to know if you got to meet any of the team on the day, and what you thought of the samples! 🙂