Pastelles
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How to Make Trinidad’s Famous Pastelles

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - October 20, 2016

Summer’s over and the Christmas holiday is quickly approaching. Trinis love a good holiday celebration, especially when it comes to the food. Pastelles are a traditional delicacy during the Christmas season in Trinidad even though they are also consumed at other times throughout the year. Although widely found around the Caribbean, pastelles actually originated in Venezuela.

Typically, pastelles are made from cornmeal that is steamed and filled with meat and other ingredients, such as olives and raisins, then wrapped in banana leaves. Throughout the years, pastelles have taken on many variations as the tastes of the public have changed; they have taken on the names of chicken, fish, vegetarian and soya pastelles with flour rather than cornmeal used. Locals would not call these versions pastelles as their beloved original is made strictly with cornmeal and stuffed with minced beef. No matter how the pastelles are made, the crucial step that stays the same is wrapping them in banana leaves, which have been lightly placed over an open fire to reduce stiffness. Twine is tied like a bow around the wrapped pastelles to keep the banana leaves in place while boiling.

Here’s my favorite pastelles recipe:

Filling
1 lb. minced beef
2 onions, finely chopped
1 bunch chive
1 bunch big leaf thyme
1 hot pepper to taste, finely chopped
1 pimento pepper, finely chopped
1 stalk celery
2 cloves garlic
20 leaves chadon beni
1 bunch fine leaf thyme
Salt to taste
¼ cup roucou (or ketchup)
2 tbsp. capers (optional)
2 tbsp. raisins (optional)
8 olives chopped finely (optional)

Dough
2 cups yellow cornmeal (very fine)
3 cups lukewarm water
4 tbsp. vegetable oil or coconut oil
¼ lb. butter
1¼ tsp. salt

Wrapping
2 -3 large fig (banana) leaves
String to tie

This recipe was submitted by the Hyatt Regency Trinidad’s executive chef Fernando Franco and his team, which are members of this year’s ‘Caribbean National Team of the Year’ at Taste of the Caribbean in Miami.

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