When it comes to ackee you probably either have no idea what it is or it is an ingredient that you are very familiar with. If you are African or Caribbean you more than likely have eaten ackee many times.
But whether you have tried ackee or not, you may not be aware that it’s brimming with health benefits?
What is it?
Ackee is a delicate flavourful fruit, usually eaten with salted white fish seasoned with herbs and spices. Most people assume ackee is indigenous to Jamaica because ackee and Saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica and this is where the fruit is most widely eaten. However, ackee was originally imported from West Africa but now the fruit grows in very large quantities in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.
The ackee tree bears quite beautiful and vibrant red and yellow fruit which burst when ripe to reveal small round, shiny black seeds on top of a yellow aril which is the edible part of the fruit. The fruit is then carefully picked, cleaned and boiled and canned ready for purchase.
Today ackee is exported all over the world and can be found quite easily in Tesco or Morrisons. But when I was growing up we usually had to go to a market which sold Caribbean and African ingredients to find a tin.
Ackee is naturally extremely low in saturated fat and high in complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates can help regulate the sugar levels in your body as well as providing your body with a steady slow release of energy – in short, they keep you fuller for longer. Ackee is also high in dietary fibre which helps to regulate glucose and insulin levels in your blood and helps to aid digestion. High fibre foods such as ackee can not only help to eliminate constipation but it can also lower cholesterol levels and in turn boost the health of your heart. Ackee also has moderate protein content (quite high for fruit) which is essential for growth, repair and maintenance of our muscles and cells. As well as all the benefits I have outlined, ackee also increases bone strength, boosts immunity as it is very high in vitamin c and regulates blood circulation.
I told you it was a superfood!
How can you use ackee?
Growing up I only ever ate ackee with salt fish as that is the done thing in Caribbean households. The truth is ackee can be used in lots of different dishes such as curries, as a filling in patties or pastries, as an accompaniment to a main dish, or steamed and eaten on its own.
I did a bit of experimenting and came up with this really simple dish which is not only easy to make but also packed with protein, fibre and iron. Give it a go!
1 small onion (red or white), diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped up small
2 tomatoes, chopped up small
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 large fillet of salmon or trout, skinless and boneless, sliced into cubes
1 tsp fish seasoning
½ a lemon, juice only
A little black pepper
A few handfuls of spinach leaves
280g tinned ackee (a small tin)
- Put the onion, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and thyme into a large frying pan and fry gently for around 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add in the salmon, fish seasoning and juice of half a lemon. Stir gently to ensure that the fish does not break up but so that the spices are well incorporated. Put the lid on the frying pan and steam for 3 minutes.
- Next, add the black pepper and spinach. Carefully manoeuvre the spinach so that it wilts between the pieces of fish.
- Open the tin of ackee and drain. Put spoonfuls of the ackee carefully on top of the strategically placed spinach. Do not mash the ackee. Put the lid of the pan on again and steam for 3 minutes until the ackee is warmed through.
This dish can be served with rice, any kind of bread or fried dumplings. Alternatively, if you want to further increase the fibre and protein content serve it with some steamed quinoa.
Mrs Be is a mother of two and an educator who has a passion for anything creative. As well as having a keen interest in the arts she loves to cook and experiment to create new recipes. Mrs Be loves to read and has a new found love for exploring new places.