Breakfast for Cayman Islander Quarrel in Dr No (1958) is ackee and saltfish and a tot of rum. James Bond thinks it’s tough stuff to start one’s day on, but for Quarrel, it’s most refreshing. Ackee and saltfish (the former being a fruit related to the lychee) is considered a national dish of Jamaica, and not just at breakfast. As with scrambled eggs, the dish serves equally well as a lunchtime or supper meal. The dish here is inspired by a recipe that appeared in Jamaica’s Daily Gleaner in 1979 (admittedly well after Dr No was published) and serving suggestions in an article about ackee published in 1963, also in the Gleaner.
Recipe (serves two)
- 200g saltfish
- 200g ackee, cooked or tinned and drained
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 glove of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped
- 1 tsp thyme, finely chopped
- Black pepper
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Cucumber, sliced
- Iceberg lettuce, shredded
- 1 or 2 raw tomatoes, sliced
Soak the saltfish in a bowl of water overnight or for 5-6 hours. Drain, then place the fish in a pan, cover with water, bring the water to a boil and, over a medium heat, simmer for 20 minutes. Once the fish is cooked, remove it from the pan and flake it with a fork or with your fingers, discarding any bones. Put the fish to one side.
In a saucepan or a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the onion, bell pepper and the chopped tomatoes. Cook the ingredients, stirring frequently, over a medium heat until they have softened. Add the garlic, chilli, thyme and a generous pinch of black pepper and continue cooking and stirring for another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the fish and ackee to the pan, combine them with the rest of the ingredients and continue cooking until the fish and ackee have been heated through.
Arrange a few slices of tomato and cucumber and some lettuce onto two plates and spoon the ackee and saltfish mixture onto the plates beside the garnish.