There will be no birthday in our home without cake. Such is the law laid by me, The Steward. And that certainly also applies to certain chefs who would rather not have any fuss surrounding birthdays. While it would have been grand to throw him a party like I did a few years ago, there are other things that have kept us busy beyond belief.
Life is no longer the same in the Heron household. A baby changes things. Days and night blur into each other and one has to glance at a calendar to know what day it is. But as much as we are tired most times, and chef actually slept all day on his birthday due to exhaustion, we are certainly not complaining. A baby is a very good thing and provides yet another reason why there must indeed be cake. Life is too short to not bake a cake or cook a meal to mark milestones such as a birthday. It’s nice to check into a hotel and have the staff do it for you but this year, we stayed home because … well…a baby changes things.
The previous birthday cake I baked was a decadent chocolate cake that was absolutely moist and divine. This year I lightened up a lot and went for an Angel Food Cake and Whipped Cream Frosting with a Raspberry Sauce as inspired by my friend Dima.
(See the recipe for Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish below…)
Ackee and Saltfish, JAMAICA’s NATIONAL DISH
My mother and I made a hearty Jamaican brunch of Ackee and Saltfish with Fried Dumplings. Ackee and Saltfish is the National Dish of our island home, Jamaica. Since we cannot find ackees here in the UAE and salted cod is very hard to come by, it has become a bit of a celebratory dish in our home.
Back home where ackee is in abundance and many of us have an ackee tree in our backyards, it is eaten quite frequently during its season. Neighbours who hardly speak to you will start making small talk once your ackee tree starts to blossom in anticipation of a gift of a dozen or so once the fruits come in. Since we neither have trees nor neighbours with them, we have to resort to the canned variety, which for expatriate lovers of Jamaican food is as precious as solid gold.
1 tin ackee
8oz/225g salted cod
1 medium onion, or diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 small sprig fresh thyme
4 slices bacon, chopped into bite size pieces (optional)
2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil (much less if at all if not using bacon)
freshly cracked black pepper
scotch bonnet pepper to taste
Pick apart salted cod with fingers and soak in 2-3 changes of hot water for a few hours or overnight until you reach the preferred saltiness.
When saltfish is ready, heat a pan on medium heat then add oil when pan gets hot. If using bacon, just add a teaspoon or so to lightly coat the pan to prevent sticking.
Add bacon and fry to desired crispiness.
Add onions, thyme, garlic, scotch bonnet and stir often.
Drain water from saltfish and add satlfish to pot. Keep stirring.
Drain water from ackee and add ackee to pot. Once ackee has been added, stir less frequently as you dont want them to break up too much.
CHEF”S NOTE: Ackee is a great fruit and you can make this dish totally vegan by leaving out the salted cod and the bacon. Pescetarians (people who eat fish) can enjoy the dish without bacon. Some people add bell peppers and tomatoes to their ackee and salt fish. You may do so if it suits your taste.
Happy Birthday Grandma!
Today is my grandmother’s birthday, I realized the coincidence after posting. Happy Birthday Olga Leonie Thompson, who is putting up a valiant fight against cancer. Your first great grand child is looking forward to meeting you soon! Much love and blessings from Kari, Lij and Jaja!