Take a journey to Jamaica by tasting Lahnah’s lovely Ackee and Saltfish with Fried Dumplings:
This simple Jamaican dish is usually eaten for Sunday breakfast. You can add ground provisions like yam and green bananas or rice to make it a main meal. You can eat it as a snack with roasted Breadfruit or Bami, made from cassava or with Jamaican hardo bread. Or of course, with fried dumplings!
The Ackee is a fruit that is picked from the tree, but not until it is open, otherwise it is poisonous! We luckily have the benefit of tinned Ackee which is ready for use.
Journey cakes or Johnny cakes, better known as fried dumplings, were a part of the staple of the slaves in Jamaica and many other islands. They were a type of ‘fried biscuit’ taken on long journeys when the slaves travelled around or while working on the plantations.
Many meats and fish were ‘corned’ with salt to preserve them, hence salted codfish – you can find other types of salted fish which work just as well.
Provisions: 1 small pkt filleted Salted codfish* 1 small onion (slice thinly) 2 spring onions (chop) 4 sprigs of thyme I tin of Ackee* 2 cloves of garlic (finely chop) 2 small Bell peppers (red and green) (slice thinly)
2/3 fresh tomatoes (chop) ½ cup of vegetable oil 1 plantain (sliced ¼ inch pieces) 1 small scotch bonnet pepper (or ½ !) (deseed &finely chop)* ¼ tsp coarse black pepper
For Dumplings:1 lb self-raising flour ¼ tsp salt ¼ tsp baking powder ½ cup of oil (to fry) ¼ c up cold water
Prepare Dumplings – Add all dry ingredients in a bowl. Gradually add water, enough to make a firm but soft dough. Do not overwork as this will harden your dumplings. Cover bowl with damp cloth. Leave to sit for 10/15 minutes.
Using a large frying pan, add oil. Let it heat up vigorously. In the meantime, take a small piece of dough and knead into a ball – press flat and then place in the hot oil. Repeat the process until all the dough is used. Dumplings will cook quickly, so keep turning them in the oil until golden brown. You may need to turn heat down slightly to enable the inside of the dumpling to cook. Break one to see if the middle is cooked through. Makes 15 or more depending on size -smaller balls of dough (not too small) means quicker fry time.
Set dumplings aside until ready to eat – ok, you can taste one!
Tip: you can place the dumplings in a dish – put on a very low heated oven – not for too long – to keep them warm.
Prepare plantains – Using the same pan, add sliced plantain to hot oil, turn them until golden brown. They are very quick to do. Place in a dish and place in the oven to keep warm.
Prepare Ackee – Open tin and drain off fluid – place in a bowl until ready to use.
Tip: I pour boiling water onto the ackee to remove the brine – gently – this fruit is very delicate and will turn to mush if over handled. Drain and set aside.
Prepare Saltfish – Wash off salt granules under the cold tap. Soak fillets in a bowl of cold water for at least 4 hours. If still too salty, soak a while longer. Drain. Flake the fish, removing any small bones and place in a bowl until ready to use. Heat pan with ½ cup of oil. Add onions, spring onions, garlic, scotch bonnet, thyme. Saute until softened. Add sliced bell peppers. Add flaked saltfish. Bring together (do not stir) in saucepan and then add fresh chopped tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes on a relatively low heat. Now add the ackee. Gently fold into the mixture and do not stir otherwise it will break the ackee down too much and end up resembling scrambled eggs! Sprinkle black pepper. Simmer for 3 /5 more minutes. Remove from the heat.
Tip : If you find it’s too salty, place in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil until it looks frothy – drain off the water – if still too salty repeat process, but don’t lose the flavor. You could also use this method, rather than waiting for the saltfish to soak.
Tip: Be careful when handling scotch bonnet peppers. If you are sensitive it is best to use gloves when chopping. You can opt for chillis which are not as hot if you prefer, but scotch bonnet adds authenticity to the dish and has a distinct heat! Remember to remove the seeds please! Keep them in if you like it dangerously hot!!! At your peril.
Serve your ackee and saltfish with the fried sliced plantain and dumplings. This dish can also be eaten cold.
Tip: A fresh green salad is a lovely accompaniment.
Tip: *You can source all these products at your local supermarket now. (Morrisons, Tesco for example)
Cooking Jamaican food takes a little patience. And, this recipe is not for weight watchers! I hope you enjoy THE JOURNEY!