Exposure Eats: Leona’s ackee and saltfish

May 6, 2024

Ackee and saltfish: image by Gail Frederick from flickr

Leona Omotayo Frater shares a traditional Jamaican festive breakfast

It’s Christmas morning. The sound of soft reggae sounds fill the home; the flickering lights amongst the pine tree and, best of all, the sweet smell of our traditional breakfast: ackee and saltfish.

For me, a Christmas without ackee and saltfish is like Easter without chocolate and birthdays without cake – it’s just not complete. And that is down to my Jamaican heritage, where we pride ourselves on our National Dish for huge occasions.

Ackee, a fruit that grows on trees, is albeit poisonous if not cooked and prepared properly. It is yellow and looks very similar to a bean with a texture like scrambled eggs.

Although it is a fruit, it is served in a meal as you would a vegetable. Saltfish is heavily salted cod that must also be cooked properly as it would leave a very unpleasant salty taste in your mouth. Dating back to slavery days, the fish would be excessively covered in salt to keep it preserved for long journeys.

This dish is packed full of flavours and there really is no other dish like it. It is usually served with fried dumplings but can also be served with rice or boiled vegetables.

tin of ackee
packet of salted cod
1 white onion
½ red pepper
½ yellow pepper
1 tomato
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil

1. Boil the salted cod for approximately 30 mins changing the water three times to reduce the salt content
2. After around 20 mins, chop the onion, both peppers, tomato and garlic into small pieces
3. Heat a small amount of oil into the frying pan, then add the chopped vegetables
4. Sauté on a low heat until fragrant and soft
5. Drain the pot with the cod and add the cod to the frying pan with the onions, tomatoes and peppers
6. Use a wooden spatula to break the cod into bitesize pieces and continue to fry
7. Drain the ackee from the tin, give it a rinse and boil for 2 mins
8. Drain the water from the ackee then add the ackee to the frying pan
9. Softly mix all the ingredients so it is combined as one dish
10. Keep on a low heat for 15 minutes
11. Serve with rice or fried dumplings

Enjoy this dish as breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on what you serve it with. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Leona is a BA Psychology graduate from Roehampton University. She is currently a production assistant. She loves reading, cooking and music. She plans to write a children’s book one day.

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