Cookery writer Melissa Thompson says she’s “always been interested in the stories behind food” – particularly recipes from Jamaica, where her father is from. “Ackee and saltfish just rolls off the tongue, it’s such a classic dish,” she says. Yet she was surprised to learn ackee isn’t originally from Jamaica, despite being synonymous with the country’s cuisine (it’s actually native to West Africa, and came to the Caribbean through the slave trade).

“I was looking for a book that satisfied my curiosity about the history of Jamaican food,” she says, but “it didn’t really exist”. So she decided to write Motherland, a cookbook of Jamaican recipes interwoven with powerful essays about the country’s history, particularly the impact of slavery and colonisation.

Thompson, 41, first learned about Jamaican food from her father, who she describes as “a magpie when it comes to flavours”. He was in the navy and picked up lots of different cuisines from his travels, but it’s his Jamaican cooking that resonated with Thompson. “He’s a very poor delegator when it comes to cooking, so I just observed,” she remembers fondly. “Sometimes, I got to help make the dumplings and all that stuff, but really I’d watch him – maybe I’d flake the saltfish.”

It was when Thompson moved from home to uni that she started cooking the dishes of her childhood. “When the people who cook the food you’ve grown up with are no longer living with you, you have to cook it for yourself, to satisfy the craving.”

She got to experience Jamaican food first-hand when visiting the island. “To me, ackee had always come in a tin, and it’s expensive – like £5 for a tin ... But the first time we went to Jamaica, it was in season, and it blew my mind to hold an ackee pod, see the ackee fruit – it’s beautiful. I couldn’t believe the ground was littered with them.

“Food in Jamaica makes you realise how brilliantly people in the UK do it – how brilliantly my dad has always done it.” Jamaican immigrants to the UK had to learn how to recreate their cuisine with limited access to the ingredients of their homeland, and this really surprised Thompson when she visited the island. “Suddenly, things that are so precious and scarce in the UK are in beautiful abundance in Jamaica, it’s really verdant.”

Thompson says there’s “a massive misunderstanding of what Jamaican food is about”. She adds: “People think it’s quite one-note, they think it’s more about jerk – jerk is amazing, but there is so much more to Jamaican food than jerk.”

She wants people to stop messing around with classic recipes. “Sometimes, you’ll see recipes from very established chefs – who should know better – it’s like jerk with different chillies, whether it’s jalapenos or random things. Where does that come from? ... Jerk has to be Scotch bonnet.”

This is another big part of Motherland: “Know where the food has come from, know the origins, and know how it’s supposed to be before you start playing with it.”

Motherland traces the history of Jamaica through the Spanish settlers and the slave route from West Africa, through to becoming a free society. For Thompson: “You can’t tell the story Jamaican food without talking about slavery – that’s just the way it is.”

Motherland by Melissa Thompson, is published by Bloomsbury, £26.