Ackee and Saltfish – Jamaica’s National Dish.

Nothing is sweeter than on a Sunday morning to wake up to Ackee and Saltfish, Callaloo, fried dumplings and plantain! Ackee technically is a fruit (and it is the National fruit of Jamaica). It was brought to Jamaica and the Caribbean from Africa during the slave trade era. The fruit should be allowed to ripen on the tree completely prior to consumption, as it will be poisonous if eaten unripened. I did not grow up loving Ackee but I have grown to enjoy eating and cooking it. Ackee kind of resembles scrambled eggs when cooked. We have had many happy Sunday Mornings cooking and eating with family. Now since I have a vegetarian in my house I usually have to prepare ackee two ways, so in this post I will be doing both a vegetarian/vegan version as well as the traditional version along with Callaloo (which is a type of Spinach which also originated from Africa), fried dumplings or Johnny cakes and fried plantains.

So The first thing I do when I’m starting to cook this dish is to soak my salted codfish (about half of a one pound pack) overnight. The next day I boil it twice if I don’t soak it overnight I will boil three or four times. I rinse with cool water and flake the fish into small pieces and set aside.

I chop up all of the fresh ingredients.

1 whole onion

1 Scotch Bonnet Pepper remove seeds or not if you like extra spicy.

4 Plum Tomatoes

3 stalks Green Onion

4-5 cloves of Garlic

I start cooking the Callaloo first. Now if you’re in Jamaica or the islands fresh Callaloo is readily available and you can use that. It takes a little longer to cook the fresh version as it has to steam more. Here in America usually we will only have the canned one. In Florida we are able to find these items are in our local supermarkets however for those of you who do not have access to Caribbean products you can always purchase these items on Amazon.

Open the tin and drain in a strainer and then lightly rinse the Callaloo, which will wash off some of the salted brine it is kept in. Use 1/3 of each of the seasonings that have been cut up and put into a frying pan. If you are just making traditional Callaloo and Ackee and saltfish just use half the seasoning in each dish. Add 1 teaspoon of oil in a pan sauté the mixture of onions, garlic, tomatoes, green onions, and peppers for about 2 to 3 minutes. Once the mixture is sautéed add the callaloo into the pan add salt and Black pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Dish one complete! This dish is vegetarian, but some people put salt fish into the callaloo you can do this if you would like. If you do that make sure you cook down the salt fish with seasonings first and then add the callaloo.

on to the Vegetarian Ackee…

So normally we would be using tin Ackee that we buy at the supermarket, however this particular Sunday morning I’m using fresh picked and boiled Ackee that my cousin brought for me from Jamaica. Usually when it is harvested it is picked from the pods boiled for 5 to 10 minutes or scalded and then frozen until ready for use.

Use the second thirds of each seasoning item and sauté in a pan. Add the Ackee to the mixture (if you are using tin ackee then open the tin and strain) that key from the branding water whyonce the seasoning has been cited for 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly tender. At this time you would add salt and black pepper pepper to taste and I also add some garlic and onion powder to enhance the flavor. Cover and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Fresh ackee is more firm than tin Ackee so it needs to cook a little longer than if you are using tin Ackee.

For the traditional Ackee I start with about a quarter pack of frozen bacon cut into small pieces. Sauté the bacon until crispy and it renders oil. Remove the bacon from the pot and sauté the rest of the seasoning mixture of onions, pepper, garlic, green onion, and tomato. Once sautéed add the flakes salt fish to the seasoning mixture and black pepper cover and let simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes stirring occasionally. You can add a little water so that doesn’t dry out too much. Once the salt fish has been cooking for 5 to 10 minutes and is incorporated with the seasoning mixture add back the bacon and the Ackee. Season with more black pepper and garlic powder to taste. Cover and let the Ackee simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes. The tin Ackee will not need a lot of time just to warm through in fact be careful not to Mash-it out when stirring the mixture. If you are using fresh Ackee it may take a little longer to steam out just keep watching it until it feels soft enough.

Now the last piece of the puzzle is the fried Johnny cakes which I go back to good old Enid Donaldson’s recipe with an adjustment.

I use water not milk and my adjustment is I use ice water and put the dough on the fridge for about 20 min before I fry it.

So now the only thing left to do is fry the ripe plantain and our breakfast is complete! Enjoy!