Ackee and Jackfruit

/ #vegan #ackee #jackfruit  /6 min read

Today is the most fun I’ve had in ages, not just experimenting with the dish but also filming the process of prep and cooking it to create a recipe video.

It’s my first time attempting a receipe video and whilst the shooting was fun, it was hilarious the number of things that went wrong, including the bloody hob blowing up. Twice!

The video editing process is a bit long so I’ve decided to write it up with the hopes that eventually, the video will join the write up.

This year I have been flirting with a whole food plant based diet, and as such I was intrigued when I saw that the Gents over at original flava had done a remix on Jamaica’s national dish of Ackee and Saltfish, substituting the fish for Jackfruit.

I’ve never before cooked or even eaten Jackfruit, was it lke breadfruit? It comes in tins? Hmm straight up didn’t really know whether I’d be able to handle it. Flavour profiles being what they are, and what’s more I got fresh (frozen) ackee in my freezer, suppose it don’t work? Ackee is far too precious a commodity to waste if the whole lot was gonna end up in the bin.

I studied the original flava video, at length, repeatedly, I saw that Shaun and Craig used much the same aromatics, herbs and the process looked almost identical to what we’d normally do when cooking saltfish (without all the boiling mind).

Watch the original recipe video, using the link below 1

I decided to chance it. Took some of my precious Jamaican gold out the freezer to defrost and set about the prep of all the other ingredients and the shoot.

The Preparation

So preparation was a little bit involved, but as long as you take your time it can be done without much mishap. I didn’t have a single hob, and the position of the extractor and upper cupboards was going to make filming over my cooker problematic, so I decided to purchase from Amazon a single hob unit that could be plugged in elsewhere in the room that would be better suited to the camera and (if needed) lights setup.

The Gear

Now that I have the wonderful Nikon D850, I can shoot tethered. This comes in very useful if ur five foot three and the camera is eight feet up in the air. As a result, I was able to plug the camera into the computer and see what I was filming with ease. It made positioning elements within the frame a breeze.

My living room/kitchen is south / south east facing so I get very good light throughout the day, this meant that I didn’t have to set up lights to film early in the morning doing the food prep. The hob I’d ordered was due to be delivered that day but I didn’t know how late the delivery would be so getting on with all the choping and grating and flaking of the ingredients just made sense. I could then film those sequences while waiting to film the main event.

To film the setup, I positioned the tripod on the kitchen worktop at a 90 degree angle to the food/prep area, with the chopping board underneath. I didn’t use any reflectors or diffusers as by the time I started fillming, the sun was past the window overhead and wasn’t casting any harsh shadows over the frame.

The Ingredients

1 tbsp cooking oil of preference 1 small white onion
1 shallot
14 red bell pepper
14 green bell pepper
1 spring onions/scallion
1 celery stalk
1 chill pepper
2.5 cm ginger
1 tin jackfruit (in brine)

1 tsp paprika
1 tsp thyme
14 tsp tumeric
14 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

1 tin ackee
Juice from 12 lemon

The Method

So growing up cooking this dish, there was one thing we absolutely hated, but the prospect of the end result meant we endured the smell and the process. What was that one thing? Bloody cooking that saltfish. It absolutely reeked back in the day, and you had to boil it at least three times to get rid of most of the salt, and that was after soaking it for hours even.

Our Dad, used to slice about half an onion and chuck it in the pot to curtail the heady aroma of boiling saltfish that used to knock your socks off as you opened the front door. I personally don’t think my young nose could tell the difference ‘sans’ onion or not.

What was worse though, as I got older and was trusted enough to handle sharp kitchen implements, is that I was the one who had to skin that bastard, stinking fish, with it’s slimy skin boiled to, well death, and flake the fish off the bones ready for it’s next incarnation as the sidekick to the delightfully simple to prepare Ackees. In the modern era, salt fish is less heavily salted and comes pre-flaked (heaven!)

In this version, I’ve chose the Jackfruit in brine, mostly because that was what’s the supermarket had.

Preparation

  1. Empty the can of jackfruit into a collenda or sieve to strain the water, give it a rinse and then set it aside.
  2. Prepare the jackfruit by cutting the rubbery spine of the fruit away and flaking/feathering out the pieces
  3. Empty the can of ackees in the same manner, don’t rinse these too much, set aside
  4. Chop up the onions, celery and bell peppers. reserve some slices of peppers for garnish
  5. Add the cooking oil to a skillet/frying pan that is on medium heat. Allow the oil to come to temperature
  6. Add the chopped onions and shallots to the pan and let them cook for a few minutes until they become translucent.
  7. Add the celery and garlic, these will release water as they cook which will deglaze any caramelised onion sugars at the bottom of your pan.
  8. Grate the ginger over the pan so you don’t lose any of the juices
  9. Add the chilli peppers and stir letting it all saute for a couple mins. 10.Add the feathered jackfruit then add all the spices and herbs on top, including the saly and blacl pepper
  10. Stir this pot slowly making sure all the jackfruit and aromatics are coated with the herbs and spices.
  11. Put a lid on the skillet and allow to cook over a reduced heat for 10 mins
  12. Finally add the Ackee to the skillet and stir gently, you don’t want the ackees to turn into a mush so take your time
  13. Cover the pot for a further 5 mins allowing the ackees to warm through and cook evenly
  14. For a bit of freshness, squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the tope to counteract some of that peppery spices
  15. Serve your dish with any number of sides, including dumplings, breadfruit, green banana, yams or sweet potato (some people like it with rice, but that’s not for me.)

Finally, have a sit down with a nice glass of white wine or prosecco and enjoy!