Hands up who needs some sunshine in this grey January weather! This has to be one of those dishes I crave the most and is bit of a lifetime favourite. Ackee and Saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish, and for good reason – it’s just mouth-watering. Obviously, as with all my favourites, I wanted to make it vegan, so came up with Ackee and Tofuish with Fried Dumplings and Plantain
This vegan version of Ackee and Saltfish is great for breakfast or brunch with family and friends – it's colourful and bursting with flavour and full of sunshine. Your guests will be impressed.
I am a big lover of Jamaican food and all its flavours. Not just because it tastes so good of course, but I was brought up in Bristol and lived in Brixton (in London) for years, both of which have huge Jamaican populations. I am also of Caribbean heritage so my mum introduced me to plantain when I was young. I’ve been obsessed with plantain ever since! Plantain is a like a big savoury banana, and tastes beautiful when cooked. (it's not great raw though!) You can get plantain at lots of food markets, or shops which sell a lot of ethnic produce. If you can’t find any, just fry some greenish banana.
The Ackee & Saltfish part of this dish is traditionally made with salted fish that has been re-hydrated. I didn’t want to lose the salty flavour, major source of protein or hearty texture, so I decided to replace it with tofu that had been well salted and chickpeas. The dish is also full of vegetables like spring onion and peppers. Add even bigger quantities of these if you want!
Ackee is a fruit that originated in West Africa and eventually came to Jamaica, where it became a feature of lots of Caribbean dishes. It is a yellow colour and has a similar texture to scrambled eggs – so it can also be used in a vegan scrambled egg dish! Tins of ackee can be bought in a lot markets, ethnic food stores and sometimes major supermarkets if there is a big Afro-Caribbean community. If you're really lucky and the right part of the world, you can get it fresh, which is another treat entirely!
Dumplings are also another popular food in Jamaica. They can be fried, boiled, put in stews… They are essentially made from dough and then cooked. This dumpling recipe has allspice in it, and optional sultanas (for a different flavour and texture). Obviously frying the dumplings isn't very healthy, but I do enjoy it every now and then as a treat.
I get so excited by this colourful dish, and probably more excited by how easy it is to make vegan!
Ackee and tofuish with fried dumplings and plantain
Ackee and tofuish
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bunch spring onions also known as scallions
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 bell peppers, sliced any colour but red and green look the best
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped finely optional if you don’t like too much spice
- 2 tsp allspice
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 3 tsp salt
- 1 tin chickpeas, drained
- 200 g firm tofu
- 1 tin ackee, drained
- Extra water, if needed
- 1-2 yellow plantain, for serving or banana if plantain isn’t available
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- ¼ cup polenta also known as Jamaican porridge
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1-2 tbsp water
- Handful sultanas (optional)
- Sunflower oil, for deep frying (optional)
Ackee and tofuish
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Once hot, add the onions and fry until translucent.
- Add the spring onions, garlic, bell peppers, allspice, fresh thyme, salt, pepper and scotch bonnet (if using). Cook for 5-10 minutes on a medium heat.
- Add the chickpeas and cook for another couple of minutes. Then crumble the block of tofu into the mix. Cooke for a further 5 minutes.
- Lastly, add the ackee. Ackee can break up easily so stir gently to keep the form of most of the beautiful pieces.
- If the dish is looking a bit dry, you can add a dash of extra water, or oil.
- In a separate pan slice up some plantain and fry in olive oil until a bit brown and cooked through. Alternatively place slices on a baking tray with a little oil and bake for 20 minutes.
- Sieve the self-raising flour and polenta into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the salt, pepper and allspice, and mix in. Add the sultanas (if using).
- Slowly add the water bit by bit, mixing in with your fingers until you get a smooth dough. You may not need all the water, as you don’t want a dough that is too sticky.
- Knead the dough. Then break dough up and roll into golf ball sized pieces.
- If deep frying, heat sunflower oil in a large pan. Test it is hot enough by dropping a small piece of dough in – if it is hot enough it will sizzle. Drop the balls into the oil to cook for a several minutes, flipping over half way so they are cooked all over. To make sure they are cooked, stick a fork through them and it should come out clean.
- Alternatively, for a healthier option, boil the dough in water for 15 minutes.