I prepared brunch on Sunday for my husband and his family. Because they are from Jamaica I decided to surprise them with a traditional Jamaican breakfast. I’m very familiar with Jamaican cuisine so the menu was a breeze. It had to include their national dish, ackee and saltfish. I love it, my husband loves it, so it was an absolute must. Salted cod fillets are soaked to remove salt, then flaked into tiny pieces and sauteed with various spices, herds and aromatics. The ackee is added at the last 5 mins to prevent it from overcooking and becoming mushy. A simple yet divine dish, it’s easy to see why it is so revered that it became their national dish. Even though we have ackee trees in Guyana we do not use it in our cooking, it’s regarded as an inedible fruit.
Ackee was brought to the Island of Jamaica from West Africa and can be found though out the island. This fruit is only edible when it’s ripe, it turns red and splits open revealing the flesh. Before this stage it is considered poisonous and can lead to severe vomiting. Don’t worry, you can pick up a can of ripe ackee at your local West Indian market.
I planned the rest of the meal around the ackee and saltfish, so it had to include something starchy to accompany it. I settled on fried dumplings, roasted and then fried breadfruit(fresh from Jamaica) and a fresh tropical fruit salad.
I served a selection of hot and cold beverages; pineapple juice, hot chocolate and a variety of teas. Needless to say it was all quickly devoured. Much to their surprise and my delight, each dish was authentic and very well received, they loved it! Yeah Mon, enjoy!!
Ackee and Salt fish
1 lb Boneless, skinless Bacalao fillets (salted codfish)
1 large tomato chopped
1 medium onion chopped
1 cherry pepper chopped
6 sprigs of thyme
3 scallion chopped
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp allspice
4 tsp vegetable oil
1 20 oz. can of Ackee
Rinse the bacalao fillets in warm water. Boil the fillets in water for 10 minutes. Pour off the water, fill the pot with fresh water and boil for another ten minutes. This is important step to get rid of some of the salt in the bacalao. Or you can simply soak the codfish overnight in a bowl of water.
Drain and rinse ackee and set aside.
Drain the water from the fish and flake with a fork. Heat oil in pan, then add garlic, onions, tomatoes and thyme. Sautee for about 10 minutes on a medium fire, until the tomatoes and onions are soft. Add flaked bacalao, allspice and cherry pepper and cook for an additional 1o mins. Add ackee and stir being careful not to crush it. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until ackee is warmed and tender, remove from heat. Sprinkle with scallion. Serve warm.
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup self rising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 half cup milk
Combine flours, and sugar in a bowl. Add margarine and rub into flour until it resembles coarse cornmeal (you can use a fork or food processor or mixer also). There shouldn’t be any big lumps of margarine. Add milk to form a soft dough. If you prefer a more dense dumpling, add less milk.
Divide dough into 12 even pieces, and form into flattened circles, about 1/2 inch in thickness. Set aside and allow to sit for 15 mins.
In a sautee pan, add canola oil to about 1/2 inch deepness. On a medium fire, heat oil. Add dumplings, about 5 at a time ( adding too many at once will lower the temperature of the oil). Cook for approximately 4 minutes per side. Dumplings should be golden brown. Remove from oil and set on a plate covered with paper towel. Repeat until all the dumplings have been fried. Serve warm.
*My dumplings are a bit lighter than the traditional Jamaican dumplings.