Friday, January 22, 2010

Jan 22nd - Ackee and Salt Fish with Sweet Potato Fries

Raw Ackee

Tin of Ackee
I love love love Ackee. I first had it while living in Kingston, Jamaica when I was an intern with the Canadian International Development Agency. I used to buy it fresh at the market. The houselady would steam it for me to cook. Out of season and outside of Jamaica, you can only buy Ackee in tins. I used to try to buy it at Jamaican restaurants in Toronto and it was horrible. 2% ackee with 1% salt cod hidden in veg. My flat-mate in Barcelona used to bring tins back with him from home. He would always share. It was adorable. He always did the dishes like dumplings, rundown or ackee, exactly as his nan did. That would invariably include a half a tomato to garnish the plate which he never ate. He bought, washed and sliced the tomato and placed it on the plate because that's what you do, but he never ate it. How cute is that!?

I watched him cook all the time. His tips for ackee have stuck with me. Alas access to ackee in tins did not. I did finally find some in London when I was there but saltcod was not easy to find. I would substitute with smoked kippers. It worked out okay. When I came to Vancouver, I could only find it for 4 times the price I was used to. I did discover my favourite Jamaican restaurant here, the Reef, which is nice and generous with Ackee and the fish, particularly on midweek days when it's less busy.
I finally found a source on Commercial but it is also well known to the locals so it sells out as soon as it comes it. Then I found it at the Real Canadian Superstore in North Van. I normally avoid that shop because it's massive and head spinning. We were in there on a different mission and I found ackee and caught a cold. Nice. But right now, I've got a stock. My dad sent me a care package for my birthday with a few tins of ackee and then he bought me some more when I was home for Christmas. I could now open a shop :-)

Ackee and Salt fish is the national dish of Jamaica. Funny that, Saltcod is sourced largely to Jamaica from Canada. S and I used to chuckle about that. Ackee is a fruit that looks like a tri-lobal apricot while it is growing but then it changes when it's ripe. You cannot CANNOT eat it until it is ripe. It is poisonous until it is. Fortunately, you will know when it's ripe. It opens up like a flower. See the photo on the tin above. You can then see the inside. The shell is not edible. Inside is the 'meat' that looks like cooked eggs with a black pit. You can only eat the little yellow bit. Oddly, it also grows in Barbados and no one there eats it. I think it has a different name there too.

S Nan's Ackee and Saltfish

1 tin of Ackee drained
1 tomato chopped, I like romas because they're meatier.
1 bell pepper chopped (normally green but the green ones looked dodgy so I bought orange)
2-3 green onions
1-2 clove garlic
few sprigs, fresh thyme
1/4 t allspice
1 scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and deveined
1 lb salt cod

I got home today and my tomatoes had fallen out of my bag through a hole. Kin's Market owes me tomatoes!

Soak your salt cod for at least 12 hours, ideally 24 hours in advance. Place it in a bowl or dish covered in water and drain and change the water every 4 hours. Keep in fridge.

In a small pan, simmer, the drained fish in water, covered for 15 minutes. Drain and flake. Set aside.

Sautee with a bit of oil, all the veg for a few minutes. You can use a small onion instead of the green onions but my previous Jamaican flatmate who follows the recipes as his nan made it, insists on green onions or 'skellions' as he puts it.

Add a couple of T of oil, neutral oil, and add the ackee. This is a trick I learned from S, my ex-flatmate. Let it simmer in oil and it takes that tinned edge off. Season with pepper but don't over salt since you have salt cod. Carefully turn but don't break up the lobes of ackee too much. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add a few T of water if it seems too dry. Add the herbs and spices.

Add the salt cod and simmer for a couple of minutes more.

Traditionally, you would eat this with blackbeans and rice. I've had it with plain rice. Tonight we're making Sweet Potato fries. Click below for the original post with the recipe.

Sweet Potato Fries

Tried and true oven baked sweet potato fries. Tonight I used one quite large orange sweet potato and one regular russet. Why? because I had them in the frigo, of course. YUMMO!

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