Summer Cuisine: Ackee And Saltfish
Welcome back to the blog,
This week was interesting to say the least. I'm currently in the aftermath of another family gathering. June and August are those months where the most birthdays and anniversaries are in our household. It's an interesting time to say the least. It's good...to have things that keep you going in life. Our wonderful prime minister, somehow declared in a recent press conference, that we might be undergoing another round of the quarantine. There's a quote once that said..."If I laugh...tis so I don't cry." That being the case...in order to preserve my happiness during these COVID times...and stay happy and laughing...I've decided to focus more on my career and my garden. In times such as these...you really have to take the time to focus on the things that bring you joy.
After about four days in the making...the ackee and saltfish was finally made. I'm going to take the time to explain to you my readership, the journey to this point in life. As a millennial, I've had the majority of the Sunday dinners in my existence made for me. These included items like Ackee and Saltfish, Omelettes, Johnnie Cakes, Steam Fish and Callaloo, Baked Chicken, Rice and Peas...the list goes on. At some point in 2020, it dawned on me...that I'd never personally cooked Ackee and Saltfish before. Realizing this...once the ackee tree actually started to bear, I felt inspired to start living off the land.
If you ever read Little House on the Prairie...you'll know the vibe I'm going for- Self Sufficiency. With the current pandemic and our home being our primary point of everything...I've decided to trial what life must have been like as a pioneer...but the 2020 version of having a house garden. It's really quite satisfying.
ACKEE AND SALTFISH PREPARATION
Our home is multifunctional, like most homes. I feel like it's designed almost like a mohawk. When people talk about mohawks, they're all business in the front...and party in the back. In a similar manner...when you enter the yard...the house is just like all homes...the lawn, the drive way and the flowering plants. At the back however...is where all the gardening activities take place...and kitchen party activities take place. The fruit and vegetables are thriving since we've been tending to them. I don't do everything myself, but have focus areas that I'm responsible for across the weeks. At this point in time, I no longer have to buy vegetables because the seeds we planted in March are actually starting to mature and give us vegetables and fruit. The tomatoes are now maturing, and soon we'll be able to cook with them in our meals for instance.
In the image above, the ackees starting to mature about a week ago, as well as bananas and breadfruit. Using what is on hand, I've gone ahead and started making food utilizing recipes that will work with the produce that is currently in abundance. Now is the time to start blessing what you have...and working with your gifts.
In the basket above, you'll notice that the ackees (red) are in various stages of maturity. The mature ackees are the ones with the fully opened pods, and you pretty much just remove the fruits, remove the seeds, clean the flesh and cook it for meals. If you pick some semi mature pods, and leave them in a warm space, they'll actually take the time to mature, and then you can go ahead and utilize them in your meal prep. Ackee lasts for about four to five days in the refridgerator, so you can always do things like freeze them for later use to prolong their life. Over about three days I reaped enough ackees (2 lbs) to make a dish that was enough for a family of four.
ACKEE AND SALTFISH
To make the dish, you will need:
1) 2 lbs of ackees
2) 1 large sweet pepper
3) 4 large leaves of french thyme ( you can use any green vegetables you have on hand such as spinach)
4) 2 medium sized tomatoes
5) 1/4 lb of saltfish
6) Cooking oil
7) Dutch pot or thick saucepan to preserve heat
8) 1 medium sized onion
9) Seasoning of your choice. Season All, Salt and Pepper, or Lawry's work just fine.
This dish, is best started from the night before. Saltfish, as the name implies, is a dried salted codfish. Salt is used to keep the fish preserved, so therefore in order to ensure that the fish is ready for consumption, you reserve the salting process. Salt...absorbs water, so if you place the salt fish in a large enough volume of fresh water, the salt will be absorbed via osmosis, and eventually, you'll end up with the fresh softened fish. If you leave the fish soaking overnight, by the morning...it will be nice and soft and ready for cooking. Flake and de-bone the fish with your hands. It's soft enough to be flaked once it's been soaking overnight. By soaking, you are reversing the salting effect, and you'll be left with fresh fish. Season with your dry spices such as Season All. About 1 tablespoon of seasoning will be fine. The vegetables will also add to the flavor, so you won't need to over season.
1) Once the saltfish is ready, you can then start preparing your vegetables. Dice half the sweet pepper, all your tomatoes, and the onion, This will be your preliminary mixture. Cut two sweet pepper rings if you wish. If you see the image above, I used them as part of my final garnish. Dice the remaining sweet pepper as garnish as well. Essentially, from the colour palette, because the ackee is yellow, it goes well on red plate and will be accented by the green sweet peppers. Presentation is key when it it comes to food.
2) Heat some oil in your frying pan. You need just enough to cover the pan, and to ensure that the items don't stick to your frying pan. A Dutch pot works well for such occasions, Add your salt fish and vegetable mix (sweet pepper, tomatoes and onions). Let cook for about fifteen minutes on medium to low heat.
3) Add your washed and drained ackees to mixtures. Ackees don't take a long time to actually cook, so let them mix into the saltfish mixture, and let the entire mixture cook for approximately ten minutes.
Place in your serving dish. In terms of presentation...it always helps when your food looks palatable. I've garnished the dish with some excess french thyme. This is so pretty! To match the yellow base of the ackee...add some yellow based juice such as pineapple juice or orange juice.
Once this is finished you can then take the time place these items on your table, as one of the dishes on your buffet. With the summer, it is a good idea to do things like barbeque, and then have the ackee and saltfish as one of the accompanying dishes, with items like corn, salad and a pastry of your choice.
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