Jamaican Ackee & Saltfish
Recently, a friend of mine from Jamaica who happens to be an incredible cook gave me an impromptu cooking lesson. She showed me how to make Ackee and Saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish, and, although I didn’t write down exact measurements (given the impromptu nature of it all!), I wanted to share the experience with you guys and at least give you the building blocks…
First, let’s talk about ackee – it’s Jamaica’s national fruit, though it’s not really sweet and, in this dish, cooks up like a vegetable. Ackee starts out closed and green (and is actually poisonous in this state), and then it matures to red-orange and splits open to reveal black seeds and white-cream flesh (which is perfectly safe to eat). Obviously, finding the fresh fruit here in the States is pretty tough, but you can sometimes find it canned or frozen.
The second part of the dish is the saltfish, which is dried, salted cod. The cod can be soaked for a few hours to reduce its level of salt or used as is – a quick poach and flaked up, it’s ready for the dish. Ackee and saltfish is really a sauté, and, in our version, we started with some bacon, and then added sliced onions and peppers, a minced, killer Scotch Bonnet pepper, chopped tomato, and sliced scallions. We threw in the flaked saltfish and then carefully folded in the ackee and some fresh thyme.
Ackee can be boiled ahead of time or added into the sauté – it cooks up very quickly. It turns from a white to an egg-yellow when cooked and can crumble easily (so be ginger with it). We fried up some dumplings to go with the creamy, buttery ackee (the tradition), though rice, green bananas, yams or even fried breadfruit also go really well with it.
This is truly a breakfast (or brunch) of champions! Creamy, spicy, and deeply flavorful and beautiful paired with the crispy, fried dumplings. Thank you, May, for the ackee and saltfish tutorial!