Ackee and Tempehfish (A Vegan Take on Ackee and Saltfish)

005

I just had to create a vegan rendition on Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish.  Ackee is a yellow-fleshed fruit that grows on a tree.  It is poisonous to eat before it has fully opened and ripened.  Many people say that the flesh of the ackee, which is eaten, is more reminiscent of scrambled eggs than your typical fruit.  Saltfish is salted cod.  The two together create a match made in yardie heaven.

 

Saltfish is fishy and salty.  Thus, I decided that seaweed would give our tempeh fish that fishy and (slightly) salty taste.  Seaweed is packed with trace nutrients and iodine, both of which are essential to thyroid health.  It makes for a great snack as is and can enhance the flavor and nutritional profile of any dish (including the “Cock” Kelp stock found on page…).  I like to throw a strip of kelp into my slow cooker when I’m cooking beans, which also helps to make the proteins more digestible.  The key in using tempeh, like tofu, is to ensure that it is well marinated before incorporated in a dish.  That one step will drastically improve its flavor.

 

Black salt is what really kicks this dish up a notch.  It has a salty, eggy taste that complements the ackee well.  It is greyish white or slightly pink in colour with a slightly stinky smell (due to the sulfur) and also goes by the name kala namak.  You can find this salt in West Indian food stores or Indian food stores, but if you can’t seem to source it, you can substitute sea salt in the same proportion.

 

While for many Jamaicans ackee and saltfish serves as a symbol of national pride that has been repatriated throughout the Diaspora, for me, it holds more sentimental value.  On the morning of my convocation from law school, it was the dish that my mom and dad made for all of our guests in my tiny apartment in Montreal.  I hope that this vegan version evokes just as many memories for you as it does for Jamaicans the world over.

 

1 block of frozen tempeh

2 5 inch strips of kelp and/or dulse (or

Your choice of seaweed (2  five inch strips of either kelp, kombu, wakame, dulse, or nori.  Nori has the “fishiest” taste) and 1 nori sheet or 1 tbsp dulse flakes

3 tablespoons miso paste (any colour will do – white or yellow)

1 package of tempeh (I used the Noble Bean brand with sea vegetables)

1 stalk of green onion, chopped

1 tomato, diced small or 3 sundried tomatoes, chopped

1 green or red pepper, diced (optional)

1 can of ackee

Black pepper or cayenne pepper or red pepper sauce, to taste

 

  1. In a medium size saucepan, boil the seaweed and frozen block of tempeh until soft yet still firm. I know that sounds imprecise, but we are not looking for precision here.  This should only take 2 minutes.  Boiling the tempeh helps to minimize the bitter aftertaste that some detect when eating it.  It also makes the tempeh chewier.  If you are pressed for time and don’t care about bitterness or chewiness, you can skip this step, since the tempeh will thaw as it marinates in the next step.
  2. Pour the contents of the saucepan (tempeh and cooking liquid included) into a medium-sized bowl. Marinate the tempeh for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator (overnight is best) to give the tempeh the opportunity to better absorb the fishy flavours (we want our tempeh to taste as fishy as possible!).  Add more fresh seaweed to the marinade, if desired (although recommended).   A note here on the seaweed: You can use whatever seaweed you have on hand; once again, precision is not an issue here. Dulse flakes will make the final result look speckled and pretty . Nori does not hold up well with soaking. Thus, if you marinate using the nori, the nori will get soggy and slimy. It won’t negatively affect the taste, but some people might be a little turned off by the texture. If this doesn’t bother I would definitely use it.
  3. Pour the marinade, seaweed and the tempeh into a medium sized frying pan. I would add more seaweed at this stage to ensure maximum “fishiness.”  Now, “cook eit down”: cook the tempeh on medium heat until the marinade has been absorbed or “reduced” (as is the proper cooking term).  Once the tempeh has cooked, set it aside.
  4. Drain off the excess water on the ackee. Spray your frying pan with coconut oil (I would suggest you use the same pan you used to cook the tempeh.  The residual tempeh flavours are already in the pan, and you will save yourself from washing one extra thing.).  Sauté the green onions and tomatoes for 1 minute.  Add the ackee and gently stir in the tempeh, and more seaweed (if you like; strips of nori sheets would be especially good here).  Add your black salt (to taste, being mindful that if your ackee was preserved in a salt brine, the ackee may already be somewhat salty.  Always taste your food before you add salt). Gently stir until just combined – not too much, or the ackee, which is fragile, will crumble.  Add black pepper to taste.  Serve hot.  This dish is best served with some fried dumplings or fried or baked plantains.

 

“Trying a Ting”: Instead of tempehfish, you can substitute scrambled tofu or tempeh bacon.  Feel free to add TVP bacon bits too!

004


Canada Day, Baseball and Urban Herbivore (Restaurant Hot-Spotlight)

911729_10152808670565284_702138384_n 975924_10152808670900284_1220876458_n 1063552_10152951885330284_1486449801_n 1062815_10152952020150284_1145043093_n 1061130_10152952045420284_1081746117_n

Some friends and I went to see the Blue Jays game against the Detroit Tigers on Canada Day.  The Jays won (of course).  While trying to understand what was going on and instead of snacking on the overpriced crap they usually sell at these things, I bought a BBQ tofu sandwich on a whole wheat olive bun from Urban Herbivore just before I arrived at the Rogers Centre.  I would recommend Urban Herbivore in Toronto for good, quick vegan fare anytime!


Restaurant Hot-Spot(light): Wild Oat Cafe

In February I went to Ottawa for a conference.  Before I left for Montreal, my Ottawa tour guide and good friend took me to the Wild Oat Cafe for Sunday morning brunch and it was absolutely lovely.  I had toast, tofu, hash browns and an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (with a chocolate chunk cookie to take home).  My friend had toast and an omelet.  The restaurant is small and was crowded when we went — it seems to be a popular place in Ottawa.  Service was quick, but there were no waiters/waitresses/servers.  It was really about ordering at the counter, taking your recipe, standing to the side while you wait for your food, get your food and then try to find somewhere to eat. However, the place was still cozy and hippie-ish.

The Wild Oat Cafe also has a take-out counter with hot food, freshly baked bread, cookies and salads.  I definitely suggest you should pay these good people a visit!  The Cafe is located in the Glebe in Ottawa.

862085_10152572905300284_567869337_n 862441_10152572905185284_1591200311_n 862577_10152572825635284_1862963377_n 861693_10152572826070284_1209886920_n 862556_10152572826375284_810093904_n 862027_10152572770525284_638463852_n 862129_10152573882220284_1877069391_n 862227_10152572766665284_2023827066_n 804721_10152572763815284_1913173958_n 730747_10152572764010284_1206725312_n