Caribbean Food: Ackee & Saltfish, Orgasms & Oil Lamps

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Ackee and Saltfish is delicious. Seriously delicious.

It has a light, meltingly-soft texture, an exquisite subtle taste, and is perfect to accompany more robust, strong, flavours. That is, as long as you get the balance right otherwise you can overpower and lose it. I find that the drier you cook it, within reason, the better it tastes. Nowadays it’s available, canned, in many supermarkets around the world.

But, fresh ackee is orgasmic!

My Grandma Liz lived in the hills of Jamaica. Hers was a little house with a verandah situated on a big hill with sheer drops on three sides; you could sit and admire spectacular views. Her yard was full of chickens bullying the cockeral who, in turn, harassed Bingo the guard dog.

The heavy heat in those hills, the animal noises, the smells and the tastes are forever ingrained deeply into my senses. So deep that i’m sure i’ve passed them onto my daughter in her DNA!

She had no electricity and used oil lamps. Liz even used an old victorian iron to press out clothes. Her ‘kitchen’ was a revelation. There was no oven; she cooked by wood fire but it produced the most exquisite food. I remember particularly her cocoa tea, split-pea puri and, of course, roti and curry . In addition, she grew all manner of exotica – breadfruit, jackfruit, cacao, and ackee to name a few.

As a girl I remember tasting, for the first time, her fresh ackee cooked with spices and saltfish. I nearly fainted with pleasure.

I wish I could take you to those hills and the waves of heat and smells. I can’t but I can give you a little taster, by having you try her traditional recipe for ackee and saltfish:

ackeebokeh5

Picture of Ackee by Chris Gordon

1 x 500g (1lb) tin of ackee
200g (6oz) dried salt cod
approx. 2tbs (30ml) sunflower cooking oil
2 medium onions (I prefer Shallots – nice flavour)
1 clove garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1teas dried thyme
2 medium tomatoes
1/4 red scotch bonnet pepper
some crushed black peppercorns
In a jug pour 160ml ,6fl oz water
1tbs (15ml) malt or cider vinegar
pinch of salt

Half fill a large pot – approx. 25cm (10″) width – with water, add all of the vinegar and bring to the boil. Add fish. Boil for approx. 45 minutes changing the water half way through this process in order to remove as much excess salt as possible.

Drain and place in cold water to cool down. Remove bones and skin of the fish breaking it down into small pieces or flakes. Then set aside.

Slice the onions into small, thin, pieces. Crush, peel and slice the garlic clove. Wash and chop tomatoes. Cut the pepper into tiny strips. Set aside.

Carefully empty ackee into a large sieve, pour just boiled water over the ackee, gently giving it a shake as you don’t want it to disintigrate too much, place ackee into a  deep dish sprinkle with a pinch of salt and add  freshly boiled water. Set aside.

Over a med hot flame heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the onion. Once softened, add the thyme and lower to a med flame, add the tomatoes, garlic and scotch bonnet pepper, cook for approx. a minute.

Add the fish and 1/2 the water in the jug (approx. 80ml, 3fl oz).Cook down further for approx. 2-3mins,

Lower heat further, drain off ackee and gently add to the pan. Fold ackee into mixture adding the rest of water in the jug ,and heat through for aprox 4 mins.

Finally sprinkle some freshly crushed black peppercorns on top (to taste)  and your dish is ready, it will serve 2 as a main course, or 4 as a starter.

At some point in the future i will make a video of this so you can see how i do it. I will also blog, sometime in the future, on what you can eat with ackee and saltfish. What to drink with it. And, also, different versions of this dish, using alternative ingredients.

My friends, that’s it. My first ever blog. If you like it please tell others about it. I’m new at this and it is only thro’ meeting some wonderful people on the internet asking me to write a blog that I decided to do so.

Love, Laughter & Food

Angeli (*_*)

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Comments

14 Responses to “Caribbean Food: Ackee & Saltfish, Orgasms & Oil Lamps”

  1. albert on May 14th, 2009 6:44 pm

    Angeli, yumyum. I’m looking forward to trying this, sounds delicious.

    How different is canned ackee from fresh ackee?

    Angeli writes:

    Hi Albert, the taste of canned ackee is surprisingly very good, however just like any food fresh, the texture and taste of fresh ackee is literally a sublime, melt-in-the-mouth experience….

  2. Rachel on May 14th, 2009 6:50 pm

    Beautiful photo. I have Ackee and Saltfish on my list of things to make. Can’t wait to try fresh Ackee!

    Angeli writes:
    Hi Rachel, Ackee is such a simple food to prepare, if you can’t get hold of the fresh fruit, try cooking canned ackee, it does have a very good taste…..

  3. Kristen on May 14th, 2009 7:56 pm

    lovely, I have never heard of ackee before. If I see some I will be sure and try it. What a lovely blog, keep the stories & recipes coming!

    Angeli writes:

    Thanks Kristen, hope you visit and try my other recipes – comments will ALWAYS be welcome.

  4. shellieartist on May 14th, 2009 8:06 pm

    Wow Angeli- that sounds heavenly. I am wonder if I can find ackee here in my little town. I will look as I would love to make this! I love your blog so far :)
    xoxo
    Shellie

    Angeli writes:

    Thanks Shelli, maybe you can try out some of my other recipes and see what you think….

  5. Kimberli on May 14th, 2009 8:29 pm

    Wondering what market here in NYC would carry a tin of Ackee?
    This sounds wonderful! Thanks!

    Angeli writes:

    Hi Kimberli, are you able to get to Harlem? I understand you would be able to buy it from there, or how about a Korean store…..
    hope you come back and try some of my other recipes – i will be interested to hear your comments:)

  6. Arwen from Hoglet K on May 15th, 2009 12:16 am

    I haven’t heard of ackee before, but this is a great recommendation. Your grandmother must have been a good cook making everything with a wood fired stove. It’s really interesting to hear about her old fashioned iron too – I’ve was looking at all these different old irons at the museum the other day. Some you heated on the stove and some even had coal inside!

    Angeli writes:

    Let me tell you Arwen, I was astounded to see what came out of her kitchen, i suppose it was like a primitive aga in a way – and she used wood,
    which she chopped herself! Don’t ask me how she did it, I have a stainless steel gas stove……

  7. bruleeblog on May 15th, 2009 2:58 am

    Nice first post. Can’t wait to read more!

    Angeli writes:

    Thanks bruleeblog! Look forward to more of your comments on the recipes!!!

  8. Morag on May 15th, 2009 7:34 am

    Well done Angeli, I am so looking forward to trying this too and lots of wonderful things I know you will be posting on here.

    Angeli writes:

    Thanks Morag, I look forward to you trying out my recipes and giving me feedback (*_*)

  9. Dreader dread on May 16th, 2009 8:04 am

    yeah man, ackee tastes good with cod have you tried it with bacon as well , its irie !!!

    Angeli writes:

    Hey Dread – Yes I have! Glad to see that you’re enjoying the taste:) I will blog about other food whose flavour I’ve found goes well with ackee.

  10. LoveFeast on May 17th, 2009 4:44 am

    I stumbled upon your new blog on Twitter! I loved your story about your grandmother Liz’ home, the sights and sounds! What is your favorite food memory? Would you share is with us?

    Angeli writes:

    Great question LoveFeast! You’ve got me thinking about that. Maybe I’ll dedicate a whole blog to that subject
    rather than try and answer it here in this small space. Thanks, would love to see your comments as I blog more.

  11. catlily on May 20th, 2009 1:24 pm

    It worked! Thanks.

    I’ve cooked ackee fresh too – in Dominica, and was very worried about preparing it right – didn’t want to leave any of that red vein in. Fortunately, everyone was OK.

    I cooked saltfish and ackee for a talk on Monday night – using tinned. Glad I had more than one tin because the first lot was tainted. Horrible! That has happened to me a few times now. My recipe is pretty similar to yours except I add smoked bacon too.

    Loved this first post – I love food writing which combines recipes, info on food and history/anecdote so your blog looks as though it will be a winner!

    Angeli writes

    Thank you Catlily for sharing that info, you’re absolutely right about preparing it right, glad to see your enjoying the taste and thanks also for the compliment:) I’m going to return to ackee later in my blog.

  12. Coffee & Vanilla on May 23rd, 2009 8:07 am

    My husband (hi is from island of Dominica) made saltfish with ackee recently as well. I ate it before in Jamaica only twice, but his own was much better :) I will be coming back often here, great recipes and stories.

    Margot

  13. Diaspora in the blogosphere… « Roots Cuisine on May 29th, 2009 3:46 am

    [...] Food, an inaugural post waxes nostalgic about the beauty of the Jamaican countryside and the “orgasmic” taste of fresh [...]

  14. Robert knowles on July 12th, 2009 3:37 am

    Grew up in Jamaica. Born n Barbados though of Scottish grandparents. Both parents are west Indian. Ackee and saltfish cooked correctly is just wonderful. Now living in Pa, west Indies will always be part of my heritage. Thanks for the recipe. Robert Knowles.