When my wife and I visit my sister-in-law Cindy in Thunder Bay, she often makes Jamaican-style patties. She was inspired by a trip to Jamaica years ago and the fact that she and everyone else in the family, including us, love eating them.
Because of COVID-19, my wife and I decided not to travel to Ontario this summer, as we normally would. So last week, when I got a craving for Jamaican-style patties, there was only one option: Make them myself.
If you haven’t had one, a Jamaican patty is a savoury, yellow-tinted pastry, filled and folded like a turnover. Highly seasoned ground beef — used in today’s recipe — is a popular filling, but they can also contain ingredients such as chicken, pork, vegetables and seafood.
After Cindy sent me her recipe, I compared it with others I found online and in cookbooks. No two were the same — everyone added their own little twist, which is not surprising, given how long this style of pastry has been made.
Some recipes tint the pastry yellow with turmeric, others with curry powder, while still others use both. How spicy hot the filling is, with minced fresh chili peppers, also varies, as do the types of spices added — some call for allspice, others not.
My recipe is a hybrid of my sister-in-law’s recipe and a few others I found. They’re quite delicious and great to eat as a savoury snack or as a meal alongside a vegetable-rich green salad.
Jamaican-style Beef Patties
Savoury, nicely spiced, meaty patties you can eat with your hands. The patties can be made ahead, cooled, refrigerated and reheated on a baking sheet in a 300 F oven for 10 minutes or so. Patties also freeze well. To reheat, set frozen patties on a baking sheet and set in 300 F oven until hot again, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Preparation time: 75 minutes
Cooking time: about 80 minutes
Makes: 20 patties
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (see Eric’s options)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, halved, seeded and minced (see Note)
3 green onions, white and pale green part only, very thinly sliced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp mild curry powder
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
• Dough for Jamaican-style Patties (see recipe below)
• egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp water)
Loosely combine beef, onion, garlic, scotch bonnet (or habanero) pepper, green onion, thyme, salt and black pepper in a bowl.
Place oil in a wide pot or skillet (mine was 12 inches wide) set over medium-high heat. When oil is very hot, add ground beef mixture. Cook and stir beef until richly browned and any moisture seeping from it evaporates, about 8 to 10 minutes. Mix in the curry powder and allspice and cook one minute more.
Now mix in stock and breadcrumbs. Use a potato masher to firmly press on and break up any clumps of ground beef. Bring mixture to a slow simmer, reducing heat to medium-low to maintain that slow simmer. Simmer, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes, until beef mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and cool the filling to room temperature.
When filling has cooled, remove discs of dough from the refrigerator and let warm 10 minutes. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unwrap one of the discs of dough and set on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly dust dough and a rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough from the centre out until you’ve created about a 1/8-inch thick, 16-inch diameter round.
Cut the rolled dough into smaller rounds with a five-inch cutter. Gather up the scraps of dough. Roll that dough to 1/8-inch thick and cut into five-inch rounds, too. You should end up with 10 five-inch rounds of dough.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Brush the outside of each round of dough lightly with egg wash. Set 2 Tbsp of filling in the centre of each round. Fold dough over the filling, creating a half-moon shape. Use a floured fork to crimp the edges of pastry together to seal. Set the patties on the baking sheet, spacing them about two inches apart. Brush the top of each patty lightly with egg wash. Now bake the patties in the centre of the oven 25 minutes, until rich golden and cooked.
Roll, cut, fill, fold, seal, egg wash and bake the second disc of dough as you did the first one. After baking, let patties rest 10 minutes on baking sheet before enjoying.
Note: Fresh scotch bonnet and habanero peppers are sold at many supermarkets. Adding one to the filling will give it a medium spice level. Before preparing these fiery hot peppers, protect your hands by wearing rubber gloves. Also, do not put your glove-protected fingers near your eyes or other exposed area.
Eric’s options: If you’re not good at finely chopping things, pulse and chop the onion, garlic and scotch bonnet (or habanero) pepper in a food processor. You can, of course, enjoy the patties on their own, but I sometimes like to serve them with mango chutney.
Dough for Jamaican-style Patties
Use this dough to make the patties. It can be made a day before needed. Keep wrapped and refrigerated until ready to roll.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: none
Makes: 20 patties
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus some for shaping and rolling
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mild curry powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup cold lard or shortening, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup ice cold water
Combine 2 3/4 cups flour, salt, baking powder, curry powder and turmeric in a mixing bowl or bowl of your stand mixer. With a pastry cutter, two forks or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, cut the butter and lard (or shortening) into the flour mixture until well blended.
Pour water into the bowl. Now gently work until dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. With lightly floured hands, shape dough into a ball. Cut ball in half. Press each half piece of dough into a 1/2-inch-thick disc. Tightly wrap and refrigerate the discs until needed for the patties.
Fine Filipino cuisine available for takeout
If you’ve been craving tasty traditional Filipino food, you’re in luck. After taking a break because of the pandemic, next Saturday, Sept. 26, from 3 to 6:30 p.m., Victoria’s Philippine Bayanihan Community Centre will be serving Filipino takeout food again at 1709 Blanshard Street.
It will be takeout food only and meals will be sold as generously portioned combo plates that cost $15 each. “Combo A” contains chicken adobo, pancit (Philippine-style noodles), rice and stir-fried vegetables. “Combo B” contains menudo (Spanish/Filipino-style pork stewed in tomato sauce, bell peppers, onions and chickpeas), pancit, rice and stir-fried vegetables.
The dishes in the combo plates and others can also be ordered separately. They include bite-sized meat egg rolls (6 for $3), larger vegetable egg rolls ($2 each), whole adobo chicken leg ($3 each), whole fried tilapia ($10 each), menudo ($10), pancit ($10), stir-fried vegetables ($10) and desserts, such as banana egg roll ($2 each) and fried banana skewers coated in caramel ($3 each).
Because of COVID-19 considerations, the food must be pre-ordered. Orders can be placed now until 9 p.m., Sept. 25. A pickup time will be allocated.
Funds raised from food sales will support the Philippine Bayanihan Community Centre’s various community initiatives. So please order a lot! For more information, go to the centre’s website at bayanihan.ca.
Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.