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.
Today I’d like to share another Caribbean dinner recipe which is a Jamaican-style oxtail recipe. Oxtail is literally the tail of cattle. The meat is usually prepared by slow cooking as a stew or it can be braised. It’s a traditional stock base for soup with meat in it and is recognized both domestically and internationally from many islands of the Caribbean and the United States. You can even find it in places like the United Kingdom and Ireland. Oxtails were a staple in our house growing up. My mother used to make oxtail dinner when we were kids and it would be accompanied with sides like sweet fried plantains, stewed cabbage and the traditional compliment of “rice and peas”. I hope you enjoy the recipe that follows!
2 – Pounds of sliced oxtail meat
1 ½ – Cup of beef broth
3 – Garlic cloves
2 – Sprig of fresh thyme
3 – Scallions (green onions), chopped
2 – Large onion, chopped
2 – Thinly sliced green pepper
1 – Scotch bonnet pepper, chopped
1 ½ – Tsp of sugar of molasses
*Oxtail seasoning, Browning (for coloring), Salt and Black pepper
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
What does Christmas mean to me?
Well, it’s been a tradition that has carried over three decades in my home and not just with my immediate family but we would have an influx of 50-60 guests dining and partying the night away with us (aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, friends and so on.) Each year on Christmas Eve, just after dinner and a bevy of “Jamaican style” Christmas carols playing over the speakers then all of the kids would assemble on the living floor, all around the tree and my mother would then read a passage of her selection from the Holy Bible. I don’t know quite how she did it, but no matter how long or short the passage my mother would always finish at exactly 12:01am just in time for all of the kids to run like maniacs – ripping apart every gift in site! It was utter pandemonium and I loved every minute of it! At that point, while all of us (kids) would be in the living room playing with our toys and showing off new clothing all of the adults would slither out of the room into the dining room to really celebrate!
As I became an adult the reins were eventually passed to me and I gladly accepted them wholeheartedly. Till today, although the numbers have dwindled (considerably) we still manage to keep our traditions alive from vast dinners to gifting, bible verses, etc. and I’ve learned that no matter how large or small the group all that really matters is you are celebrating with the one’s you love and that truly love you! So be happy and thankful for all that you’ve had, all that you currently have and things that are yet to come in the New Year!
Keeping up with the spirit of giving I’ve decided to share the “adult” part of Christmas in my house with you, that is the DRANKS!!! So here a couple of my favorite Jamaican Christmas drink recipes:
(Makes approx. 10 cups)
2 ½ cups – Dried sorrel
3oz – Fresh grated ginger
5 Pimento seeds
2 cups – Sugar
2 – Tbsp Lemon Juice
10 cups – Boiling water
1 cup – White rum (preferable Wray & Nephew)
Directions: Combine dried sorrel, pimento and grated ginger. Add to boiling water. Refrigerate over night. Remove from refrigerator, and then strain contents into a large container. Add sugar, lemon juice and rum. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Serve over ice
GUINNESS (STOUT) PUNCH
1 pt – Guinness Stout
½ cup – Condensed Milk
1 ½ Milk or Evaporated milk (or my favorite 3 large scoops of vanilla ice cream)
1 tbpn – Nutmeg
1 tspn -Vanilla extract
Tip: stout has a strong and bitter after taste so you can add additional milk (condensed and regular to dilute if necessary).
What’s your greatest Christmas or holiday memory?
What’s your favorite holiday drink?
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!