Whenever I return to Jamaica, I always have a set fruit shopping list that must be checked off before absolutely anything else occurs, and top of my list is a bag of jackfruit pods. These golden pockets of fruit manage to be both sweet and slightly saline, as well as chewy and crunchy at the same time. Key, of course, is not to buy a bag that’s been sitting in the sun for hours, but rather one full of pods plucked straight out of the luminous, yellowy-green, beehive shaped jackfruit. Firstly, a machete is taken to the middle of the jackfruit, slicing through it effortlessly and its natural white discharge is mopped away with a rag. In the markets, many opt for a whole segment, but for walkers-on-the-go a bag of pods prised away from the body with the seeds still inside is a must-have, understood with just a nod and a point.
Removing these seeds is where the fun begins. I’ve never actually seen anyone use their hands to do so: instead, people manoeuvre their tongue and front teeth meticulously shredding the flesh to dislodge the seed. After this, the flesh is firmly held in one part of the mouth, while the seed is spat into the bag, one pod at a time. Continued below…
Prep time: 15 minutes + 1-2 hours soaking
Cook time: 50 minutes
500g can young green jackfruit in brine, rinsed
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp all-purpose seasoning
2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and minced, or 1 tsp ground ginger
5 tbsp medium masala curry paste or 2 tbsp curry powder
400ml can coconut milk pinch of light soft brown sugar (optional)
1½ bell peppers, deseeded and sliced or chopped
½ small onion, finely chopped
5 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, whole
sea salt and freshly ground
parsley or coriander, to garnish
Soak the jackfruit for 8 hours, or overnight, in warm water, changing the soaking water at least a couple of times. If you do not have time to soak the jackfruit overnight then 1–2 hours will do.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan/Gas 7) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Heat half the coconut oil in a large saucepan or Dutch pot over a medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the all-purpose seasoning, the ginger and 2 tablespoons of the paste or 1 tablespoon of the curry powder. Stir for 1–2 minutes to combine. Turn the heat down a little, then add half the coconut milk and stir to combine.
Drain the jackfruit, add to pan or pot, stir until coated, and cook for 20–25 minutes, adding a splash of water if it looks dry. Add the sugar, if using, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Using a fork or potato masher, shred or mash the jackfruit until it resembles strands of meat that look similar to pulled pork.
Spread the jackfruit out on the lined baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 minutes, until starting to colour. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in the pan or pot over a medium heat, add the rest of the all-purpose seasoning, paste or curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1–2 minutes to combine. Add the rest of the coconut milk and combine until smooth. Add the baked jackfruit, bell peppers, onion, spring onions and Scotch bonnet and cook for 10–15 minutes, until tender. Scatter over the parsley or coriander before serving with rice.
Riaz Phillip’s latest book is a celebration of Jamaica – the island’s culture, heritage and cuisine. The book is made up of the familiar Jamaican recipes and dishes he grew up around, with beautiful photography Riaz took himself on trips to Jamaica. West Winds: Recipes, History and Tales from Jamaica by Riaz Phillips. Published by DK, 2 June. £25 Photography: Caitlin Isola and Riaz Phillips
I didn’t have much culinary knowledge of what do with jackfruit until a local Rasta, named Marlon, of the Lion House beside the Fern Gully, told me not to throw my remains away, but to keep the seeds for a roast, or soak the flesh and use it to bolster a curry or stew. Another acquaintance, Delroy Dixon, who runs the fabulous Rhythm Kitchen Caribbean restaurant in London, then shared with me a recipe for jackfruit curry, of which this is an adaptation. Outside of the islands, fresh jackfruit can be hard to come by, but fortunately it’s now readily available canned in brine in Asian and Afro-Caribbean supermarkets, and some major supermarkets.