Cheers to another Sunday in August. August is one of my favorite months of the year: the weather is (usually) sunny, there’s always something fun to do outside, and best of all, August is the month many Caribbean countries (including Jamaica) celebrate their emancipation and independence days. So in honor of Jamaica’s birthday, this week’s recipe is a spin on Jamaica’s national dish! Keep reading to find out how to make this amazing “Ackee” & Saltfish with Plantain Gnocchi!
Ackee is a fruit that originated in West Africa. When the fruit ripens, the ackee pod opens up to reveal a soft yellow meat that Jamaicans cook and pair with steamed saltfish (salted cod). As a child, I used to love separating the ackee from its large black seed and eating the cooked ackee fruit. But as I got older, something changed. Which leads me to a confession – I actually really dislike ackee! Including last week’s Coffee Crusted Tofu Salad, this is the second week in a row that I’ve made a dish using ingredients that I don’t personally like. But in this case, my dislike for ackee actually happened because I ate it so much as a child that I got sick of it. Now, even the smell of ackee makes me feel nauseous.
So what’s a girl to do when her ENTIRE family wants to enjoy ackee and saltfish and she can’t even stand the smell of it? Or when she finds out that ackee can be very deadly, so much so that it is considered one of the 10 Most Dangerous Foods (which is something my mom forgot to mention when she made ackee for me as a child!).
Answer: make my own version of ackee using plantain, of course!
Plantain (pronounced “PLAN-TIN”) is not a massive banana, though it is part of the banana family. Plantains are very starchy and are essentially the Caribbean potato. The most common way to eat plantain is to boil or fry it, but for this dish, I’m using plantains in a unique way, as a basis for my homemade plantain gnocchi!
Gnocchi sounds like a fancy (translation complex) dish, but it is so easy to make! Gnocchi is just another word for dumpling and I’ve been making gnocchi without even realizing it each time I made boiled dumplings for Sunday breakfast with my parents. This gnocchi recipe calls for 5 simple ingredients: flour, starch, egg, plantain, and grated Parmesan cheese. It truly doesn’t get any easier than that! I used almond flour for this recipe because I like the lightness it brings to the gnocchi. In the gnocchi game, “light” and “airy” are the keys to victory.
But to be honest, the gnocchi, like ackee, is just a vessel for the saltfish, which is cod fish that has been cured in salt. It is (not surprisingly) SUPER salty, which is why you absolutely have to soak the saltfish in water overnight.
If you don’t have access to saltfish, you can used a smoked trout or mackerel, both of which will taste just a great. I prepare the salt fish in the traditional way, with sauteed bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes, as well as two additional ingredients that should be very familiar to those reading the blog: a bit of scotch bonnet pepper and thyme. As the fish cooks, the vegetables release their juices, creating a lovely sauce for the gnocchi. This is a simple and satisfying dish that feels rustic and homey. It’s comfort in a bowl!
This recipe may seem intimidating, especially for those who have never had ackee and saltfish before. But just trust me and give this dish a try. You WILL NOT regret it!
And for those who doubt that anything could ever replace ackee, I challenge you to make this plantain gnocchi. I know you’ll love it!
This recipe is a refreshing twist on an already amazing national dish and it’s a great way to mix things up.
Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments below and tag #SweetandSorrel. I can’t wait to hear from you all!
“Ackee” (Plantain Gnocchi)
- 1 ripe plantain
- 1/4 cup arrowroot powder
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 package salt codfish *
- 1 medium green bell pepper
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1 medium cooking tomato
- 1/4 small scotch bonnet pepper
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp water
- salt and pepper, to taste
- The night before you plan to make this dish, place saltfish (if using) into a bowl filled with water and soak over night. When you are ready to prepare the saltfish, drain the water from the fish and rinse with fresh water. Shred the saltfish using your hands or a fork and set aside.
- For the gnocchi: peel the plantain by using a knife to cut off both ends. Then cut a slit down the length of the plantain, just deep enough to separate the skin, and peel. Cut the plantain in half and boil in salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and let cool for 10-15 minutes, then gently crush with a fork. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and combine 1/2 of the egg mixture with the flour, arrowroot powder, cheese, nutmeg, crushed plantain, and salt and pepper until it forms a dough (you can discard the remainder of the egg mixture). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a ball and cut into 4 equal logs. Roll each of the strips into a rope and cut into small disks (about 4 disks per log). You can use a fork to make an imprint into the dough, or just leave the dough as is. Place gnocchi on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper that has been lightly dusted with flour. Cover with a damp towel.
- To make the saltfish, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Roughly chop the bell peppers and onions and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Next, add chopped tomato, scotch bonnet pepper, thyme and water and cook for another minute, until a sauce begins to form. Add the shredded fish and simmer for 10 minutes, making sure the sauce does not dry out. Reduce heat to low and keep warm.
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Working in batches, cook the gnocchi in the water until tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked gnocchi into the pot with the salted cod. Stir to combine and serve immediately.
*Instead of salted cod, you can use smoked trout or mackerel.