Ackee is a derivative of the word “Akey Fufo”, which was originally a native fruit to tropical West Africa (Cameron, Gabon, Ghana, etc.). The fruit was said to be imported from West Africa to Jamaica during the slave trade in the late 1700’s. Since then, Ackee has been introduced to many of the tropical islands like Haiti, Cuba, Barbados, and then eventually to Florida in the U.S. Ackee is the national fruit of the island of Jamaica, and ackee and saltfish is the national dish. Each Ackee fruit has yellow flesh (aril) inside, and three black seeds attached on top. Because of its potential toxicity, ackee should not be picked until fully ripened, or until the skin has opened. Also, the seeds are removed upon exporting this product (which is sold canned).
As a child, I didn’t like to taste of ackee much. However, it was a staple in my home every Sunday morning, along with other Jamaican breakfast items or what we call “provisions,” such as breadfruit, white and yellow yams, green bananas and my favorite, compliment bammy. Ackee has a bit of an acquired taste, and could be confusing to a child at first sight as it can be easily mistaken for scrambled eggs. Now as an adult, ackee and saltfish is not only one of my most favorite dishes to prepare, but it’s pretty easy to make! Now I bring it to you…
1 – 19oz Canned Ackee
1 – 12oz Bag of Saltfish
2 – Riped Cherry Tomatoes
1 – Small Yellow Onion
4 – Sprigs of Thyme
1 – Scotch Bonnet Pepper (or 1tsp of pepper flakes)
1 – Cup of Vegetable Oil
Salt, Pepper and other seasonings to taste
PREPARATION: Boil saltfish in a medium sized pot (This is to remove the excess salt. They don’t call it “saltfish” for nothing). Boil to desired taste. Drain and set aside. In a large frying, pan combine: oil, diced tomatoes, sliced onions, sprigs of thyme and all seasoning. Heat until simmering. Add saltfish. Do this by picking apart the fish with your hands into large pieces. Once combined and simmering, add drained can of ackee (spoon in sparingly as Ackee is very fragile and will break apart easily). Cook for approximately 20 minutes and serve hot. Serves about 8 people.
My true passion is not just in the science and creativity behind the ingredients of food making but is also in the sense of togetherness and community that food and libations bring to table!