Our love for ackee and saltfish started at a young age when our mum made it every Christmas morning; we looked forward to it more than the presents! Traditionally this is for the morning but is so versatile you can eat it any time of the day. Ackee – which has a texture similar to scrambled eggs – is available in cans, but in the Caribbean the fruit is picked fresh from the trees. You have to be careful to pick it when it is properly ripe because otherwise it can be poisonous. But be not afraid, the canned ones are perfectly safe! In this dish it’s married with boneless saltfish flava’d up with ground Caribbean spices.
Jamaica’s national dish and one of our faves. Eat with some fried dumpling pon di side!
- 600 g boneless saltfish cod (see Notes)
- 1½ tbsp (30 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper (chilli), deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp ground pimento (allspice)
- ½ red capsicum (bell pepper), deseeded and finely diced
- ½ green capsicum (bell pepper), deseeded and finely diced
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 2 540 g cans ackee, drained (see Notes)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fried dumplings, to serve (get the McAnuffs' recipe here)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
1. Put the saltfish in your pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then boil for 5 minutes, drain and add fresh cold water to cover. Repeat this process until you’re happy with the saltiness when tasted; we boil the fish three times in total for a perfect balance of salt in the fish. Drain for the final time and leave to cool. Use a fork to shred the saltfish into pieces and set aside.
2. Now you’ll need a large frying pan. Pour the vegetable oil into the frying pan and place over a high heat. Once the oil is sizzling hot, turn the heat down to low–medium. Add the onion, garlic, spring onions and scotch bonnet, then cook until soft, for around 5–7 minutes.
3. Add the saltfish, dash in some black pepper, the thyme and pimento or allspice, then mix di ting together and cook down for around 3 minutes.
4. Next, add in the red and green bell capsicum (peppers), along with your tomato. Mix together and cook down for 2–3 minutes. These ingredients help to bring a heat balance, so it’s not too spicy.
5. Now you’ll need to add in your ackee and dash in a likkle more black pepper. Fold in the ackee; the ackee is soft so it’s important to fold it in very gently – nobody likes mushy ackee. Once folded in, simmer for 3–5 minutes before serving. Food DUN! Enjoy.
• Saltfish, also called bacalao, is dried and salted fish, which can be found at many delis and specialist grocers. Ackee, a fruit from the same family as lychees, is the national fruit of Jamaica. Buy tinned ackee from specialist retailers.
Recipe from Original Flava: Caribbean Recipes from Home by Craig and Shaun McAnuff (Bloomsbury, HB, $49.99).