Ackee and saltfish - The plant is said to have originated from West Africa and, it is believed, was introduced to Jamaica by the European explores of the past. It is also found and used in other Caribbean islands under different descriptions.
In Jamaica ackee and saltfish dish graces many a dining tables, whether at breakfast lunch or dinner.
Ackees are also canned in Jamaica and forms a part of Jamaica’s food export industry.
Can also be served with rice, yams, green bananas, roast breadfruits and more..
The ackee fruit is sort of pear shaped and when it ripens the outer reddish/orange skin opens to reveal the yellowish fruit and its large black seeds are visible beneath the outer skin.
The ackee is Jamaica’s national fruit and when combined with salted codfish cook in Jamaican style seasonings, ackee and salfish is Jamaica’s national dish.
Ackee and saltfish is a very flexible dish, it can be served in different ways whether as a snack or as part of a full meal.
If eaten before it’s fully ripened it can cause very serious stomach upsets.
In Jamaica, fresh ackee is mostly sold whole (within its open pouch with the fruit still attached and visible and are usually sold by the dozen.
You will then remove the fruit from its casing and prepare it for cooking. Remove the seed and any pink remnants from within the fruit itself.
The ackee is a very delicate fruit which cooks very quickly and if overcooked it will look like soft scrambled eggs.
I prefer some texture in my cooked ackee so I ensure they are removed from the boiling water after cooking for 5/7 mins.
A further 5 mins cooking time on low heat is added when combined with seasonings and salt fish.
If you prefer spicy, then add additional seasonings to taste cover pan on low heat and leave to simmer for about 10 mins.
Jamaicans serve this dish with boiled green bananas, plain rice, fried roast breadfruit or with steamed callaloo and fried dumplings.
Here I served it with potatoes, but however you serve it, it’s filling and quite delicious.
Scotch Bonnet Hot Peppers
NB. The Jamaican country pepper ( also known as scotch bonnet) is very hot so use it whole; this way you will get the full flavour but not the fire in the mouth taste - remove from pan before serving.
If hot and spicy is your personal taste, remove seeds and chop the pepper in small pieces and add to pan.
Scotch Bonnet Hot Peppers
Depending on where you are in the world you may only be able to get tinned ackee, which is pre-cooked, so open the tin, drain off the water then add contents to pan with sautéed seasonings and cover for about 3 mins – just enough time for the ackee to heat up.
Avoid excess stirring – it may become soup! If you cannot get a fresh Jamaican scotch bonnet pepper, check out your local supermarket, you are likely to find it in pepper sauce format. Chilli peppers are a good alternative.
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My preference is fresh ackee as I am able to control how firm or mushy I want it to be. Fortunately I currently live in Jamaica and am able to get fresh in-season ackee.
So, if you are only able to get tinned ackee where you are, I feel sure your dish will be just as delicious. Remember tinned ackee is already cooked, just drain and add to your salt fish and seasonings.
Tip: Curried ackee is pretty tasty also - salt fish can be optional.