For the past couple of years, whenever I go into the supermarket near my work, I’ve enjoyed looking at the Caribbean section. There are various sauces, dried salt fish and tins of ackee. It’s the ackee that has most intrigued me – I just couldn’t imagine what it tasted like. A vegetable that looked like little yellow brains and that could poison you if you ate it fresh and didn’t cook it well enough. It even sounded a bit scary. Now, you may wonder why I have just looked at it for two years and haven’t actually bought any to try until now. Indeed, it is clearly a sign that I need to be a bit more adventurous. The push to actually buy the tin only came when this month’s My Kitchen My World went to Jamaica. Now, I could have made jerk chicken or Jamaican pasties and both those would have been very tasty, but I decided to use the challenge to try the ackee instead. As I’d never used it before and didn’t know what it tasted like, I decided to turn for inspiration to Levi Roots and Caribbean Food Made Easy. He describes it as, ‘one of the delicacies of Jamaica and a very special food’ and the way it is used here and the colours are supposed to represent the colours of the Jamaican flag. Could I get more Jamaican than that? Well, only if I’d chosen to serve it with salt fish! Actually, I suspect that this is not the way ackee is usually served in Jamaica, but is just a recipe made up for the book. I could be wrong, so please correct me if so.
Anyway, what did I think of the ackee? Well, the texture was very soft, a bit like lumps of soft scrambled egg and the taste was also very delicate. It took on the flavours of the lime, the soy sauce and the coriander without having much of its own flavour. Overall, I’d say it’s not a vegetable I could love, but not one I could dislike either, I’d happily eat it again but whether I liked the dish or not would probably depend on what it was served with and the flavours of the other ingredients. So, do you eat ackee? And if so, how is it prepared?
Ingredients – Serves 2
280g tin ackee
1 red pepper, sliced
1 spring onion, sliced
Small piece root ginger, sliced into thin batons
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 chilli pepper, sliced
1 tbsp soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
Small handful of peanuts, raw or dry roasted
1 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro)
How to make Ackee Stir Fry
1. Heat a little oil in a wok and add the ginger, garlic, chilli and red pepper. Stir fry for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the soy sauce. Stir then add the drained and rinsed ackee. Be very careful with the ackee so that it doesn’t fall apart. Turn the heat down and cover the wok for about 4 minutes so the ackee is heated through.
3. Drizzle with the lime juice, top with the chopped coriander and chopped peanuts.
4. Serve with rice.