Trinidad Cornmeal Pastelle

This is going to be a long but enjoyable post. Pastelle, a local favorite brings out the sophistication of any local dish, is enjoyed by all. Originally, a meat dish that was introduced by the locals of “Spanish” (Latin American) heritage; it is now popular throughout the country and is synonymous with the Christmas season. Besides Christmas, this dish is also popular through out the year ‘garnishing’ plates at wedding receptions, luncheons, and just about any “function” you can think of.

Pastelle Variations

 

Trinidad Cornmeal PastelleCornmeal Pastelle

Today there are many variations of this popular dish. Pastelles now have fillings of fish or chicken or even soya for vegetarians. Also, instead of cornmeal, flour is used by many. In my opinion the flour pastelle is like dumplin’ with meat, but I can’t say that too loud because my wife likes flour pastelle shhhhh! :^).Nevertheless, pastelles are a sure winner on any plate, however it is filled or whichever dough is used.

The Correct Cornmeal

On the topic of cornmeal flour, I would just like to add that when it comes to making a good Trini cornmeal pastelle the brand I like to use is “Promasa“, a cornmeal brand from Venezuela. This is the brand that sells out during the Christmas season because so many people use it to make cornmeal pastelles in Trinidad. I took out a picture below to show you how it looks so you all can look out for it when shopping. The reason I think it is so popular is because of how fine the cornmeal is. It is almost as smooth as normal flour. It seems that I’m talking too much again… so without further ado here is Cornmeal Pastelle.

Trinidad Cornmeal Pastelle Recipe

 

TRINIDAD CORNMEAL PASTELLE

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

 

 


Some of the green seasoning used: chadon beni, big leaf thyme, chive and fine leaf thyme


Season the meat. Stew the seasoned meat for 15 minutes.

Cook well, then add the roucou or ketchup.

 

Remove from heat and set aside.

 

Promasa cornmeal flour, my favourite when making pastelle

 

 

 

 

Combine cornmeal, water, salt, and butter to make a soft pliable dough. Divide the dough into smallballs (about 12). Cover with damp cloth to prevent drying.

 


Cut the fig leaves and strip them from the midrib.





Carefully place the leaf over a low fire on the stove. As you notice the colour of the leaf change move the leaf along the fire. Be careful not to burn. The leaves will become pliable. Wipe clean.



Grind the green seasoning

 

Mince the meat again to make it smoother

 


Combine the seasoning and the meat and place back on the stove.

Mix thoroughly and add salt to taste. Allow to cool.

Now we are ready to make the pastelles

 

We will be using our homemade wooden pastelle press to make the job easier.

 

Dip the ball in the oil

 

Place on an oiled fig leaf

On the other side of the press place another oiled leaf then press

 

Alternatively you can use your hands to flatten the dough.

 

Spoon about 2 tbsp meat filling to the centre of the dough.

 







Fold the fig leaf and tie into a neat package using the string. The string should be about 40 inches long. What we usually do is cut a bag and strip the strands to make string.

Place in a pot of water and boil for 15-20 minutes.

 

When cooked, drain the water.

Cornmeal Pastelle ready to be served

Tip:

You can freeze your pastelles as they are and when you are ready for a few, just boil and drain. Usually some people boil all their pastelles before freezing them. I think this is wasting gas because you still have to boil them when you take it from the freezer. Anyhow that’s what we do at home.

Variation on filling:

You can substitute mince beef with chicken or fish or pork; or you can mix beef and pork equally.

 For vegetarians:

You can substitute meat with soya or soya bits (soaked in warm water and drained). Season and cook like the meat.

This recipe was for the cornmeal pastelle. The other popular pastelle we make in Trinidad is the flour pastelle you could check out that one as well.

 

Print this Trinidad Cornmeal Pastelle recipe.

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51 Responses to Trinidad Cornmeal Pastelle

  1. LKA November 29, 2008 at 5:48 am #

    mmmmmmmmm… i can almost taste them! can’t wait to get home for christmas!

    thanks for all the good recipes on your blog!

  2. pixen December 1, 2008 at 2:44 pm #

    The homemade wooden pastelle press is really interesting gadget! The leaves you used to wrap the pastelle was confused at first as the picture indicated fig leaves not banana leaves…:-D

    Another is the Chandon beni, I didn’t know this Saw-toothed Coriander or Culantro can be used in this way as well. Now, I need to hunt for big leaf thyme! Thank yo for sharing such wonderful infos of your local herbs and recipes!

  3. simplytrinicooking.com December 1, 2008 at 4:41 pm #

    Thank you pixen for the comment. I have to explain the fig leaf part to you. In the Caribbean banana is referred to as fig hence if you you go to any market in Trinidad and Tobago and ask for a fig, ripe or green, you would get bananas. To get accustomed with with the way in which we speak, you should check out my trini dictionary. Also, chadon beni is a herb that we use in every trini recipe you could think of. Well except for cake :^) Thank you once again.

  4. Jenna December 1, 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    that “green seasoning” looks delish! i look forward to sampling pastelle on a future trip to trini! we have a lot of regional restaurants in houston, but i haven’t seen one offering food inspired by trinidad. Food With Kid Appeal

  5. Ruth December 2, 2008 at 2:45 am #

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Ruth

    http://www.infrared-sauna-spot.info

  6. simplytrinicooking.com December 2, 2008 at 4:39 am #

    Thank you Ruth for stopping by. Do come by often and leave a comment it will benefit you. My blog is a do follow.

  7. Joie de vivre December 2, 2008 at 9:29 pm #

    Great post. Very well explained and shown.

  8. Fanny December 9, 2008 at 6:52 am #

    I am soo happy to have stumble upon your site. What started out as a search for dhal puri roti recipe, ended up with your awesome blog. I love your step by step and I am going to try every one of your recipes (ingredients permitting) “I’m in heaven” as Frank Sinatra says. P.s. I live in Canada I’m seriously deprived of Caribbean soul food. I look forward to more of your delish morsels.

  9. Fanny December 9, 2008 at 6:53 am #

    p.s Interested on your take on coconut choka? ummmmmmm

  10. bigbear6208 December 9, 2008 at 4:06 pm #

    Greetings.

    I moved back to Trinidad a couple of weeks, do want me to take pictures for you, to bring out the taste of your food.

    Contact me at Akil.Borneo@gmail.com

  11. simplytrinicooking.com December 9, 2008 at 10:02 pm #

    It’s nice to hear from you after such a long time bigbear. It would be nice to get some photo tips from a pro like you.

  12. Deborah December 16, 2008 at 4:52 pm #

    i really want to try your recipe for cornmeal pastelle. i live in the states so i don’t know where i could buy some fig leaf. i’m wondering if you have an alternative for wrapping them in?

  13. simplytrinicooking.com December 16, 2008 at 7:22 pm #

    Hi Deborah, thanks for stopping by. Instead of using fig (banana) leaves you could use foil or parchment paper. Last Sunday I had a fish pastelle wrapped in parchment paper and it was delish.

  14. Lindy December 20, 2008 at 12:32 pm #

    To Deborah…I am not sure where you are in the US, but any Caribbean or Latin/Asian farmers market should sell them. I got mine in the freezer section(imagine that)!. Also for the pastelle press, up here the Latinos would know it as a tortilla press.

  15. Onlinetrini December 21, 2008 at 10:59 pm #

    Thanks for your great pictures. I am in the US and use really fine cornmeal (Goya) for my pastels. Yet I can never achieve the firm balls you show; instead mine becomes a wet slurry after mixing with the fat and water. It still comes out okay but makes for a VERY messy process. Any thoughts on this (besides taking a trip down for some Promasa)? :-)

  16. simplytrinicooking.com December 22, 2008 at 12:22 am #

    OK Online, let me see if I can help. Promasa cornmeal, from experience, mixes well in that the more water you add to it, the stiffer it gets. That’s why we had to put that amount of water. I’m not sure what accounts for that, possibly it’s the starch content or something.

    You could try to use less water, pouring a little at a time, to get the same consistency as in the picture; since the cornmeal is different to what I used. Alternatively you can add a little flour to help the dough bind.

    Or if you want promasa check out trinifood.com and order online. Lastly according to where you are in the “States” you can check a West Indian market or shop. Hope this helps and Merry Christmas.

    • cheynette December 14, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

      Hello:

      Actually the Promasa is a corn flour not cornmeal. They are two different things. So it maybe better to point out corn flour as part of the recipe not cornmeal.

      Keep up the posts and recipes. Love it!

  17. Deborah December 22, 2008 at 9:41 pm #

    thanks Lindy for the tip. I’ll go see if I can find those leaves.

  18. Anonymous March 15, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    Thank you for this really great site which I found while roaming. I am originally a Trini although once one ……… In my very busy life I make pastelles often, flattening with a cast iron tortilla press although I had brought a wooden press with me, and wrapping in parchment as fig leaves are not available. Taste is great and since they are served unwrapped fig leaves are not noticed nor missed, even by my Trini friends. Row

  19. Anonymous March 15, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    About Promasa, that is masa harina. Row

  20. Raz4125 March 16, 2009 at 12:49 am #

    Hi Row,

    Thanks for visiting. Yes, it is a type of masa harina that we use in Trinidad and have come to trust, when it comes to making pastelle. If you check the comments though, some people used different brands of masa and had to experiment a little with measurements.

  21. Ali December 8, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    Hey! thanks so much for the recipe!I’m going to try it next week or so and I’m just wondering is it absolutely necessary to grind the meat? I’m a poor student in London and don’t have a grinder:S only a fairly simple blender

  22. Felix December 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    Use what you have :-)

  23. Ali December 9, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    Thanks Feliz:) I had the same problem as Online though. My dough mixture was too soggy and I had to add more flour to bind it. Then after I steamed it and tried one, the dough was ok but still too soft and not looking as firm and shiny like the award winning pastelles in the picture above:( :(

  24. Felix December 10, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    If you can’t get the Promasa you may have to experiment a bit like some of the other comments also check how much butter you use. if you added more flour then you would have to adjust the butter and other ingredients.

    Hope you get through with your pastelle. :-)

  25. leoa December 21, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    oh boy, I tried using pollenta because I can’t get corn meal flour here…soggy is joke. I’ll keep you posted, leeting the mix cool in the fridge overnight. d

  26. judy December 29, 2011 at 5:40 am #

    You could use masa flour that the mexican uses to make tamales. There tamales is close to our pastelle, you can find it in any major food stores and mexican stores. In the food store you can purchase it for $2.99 U.S. for a 4lb bag this is in the U.S. and the leaves you can also find it in Walmart in the frozen section In the Asian stores and Indian stores and also mexican stores I have seen it in all the above stores. Happy shopping Judy

  27. judy December 29, 2011 at 5:48 am #

    Hi Felix,
    I know it is after xmas but I am making pastelle for the New year I did not have a lot of time to make it before xmas I travel overseas a lot so I did not have a lot of time. I have everything except for spanish time is hard to find it here. And I am using mexican masa flour I will let you know how it turn out today I made the ground meat and the next day I will put it all together thank you for letting me relive my childhood by making my own pastelle!

  28. jackie_t April 5, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Similar to the ‘empanadas’,

    This is NOT a Spanish dish, this is Latin American.
    There is a HUGE difference between Spanish dishes i.e from Spain and Latin American dishes i.e primarily based on Native (Latin) American cooking.

    Spanish food/dishes refers to that which originated in Europe, NOT Latin America.

    The corn alone should tip you off that it’s not a dish with European roots along with the fact that corn was a staple in the Native Latin Americans diet.

    A site with so many visitors should atleast make such a correction.

    Just my 2c, keep up the good work.

  29. Felix April 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Hi Jackie, thank you for your comment, again. As I explain under your comment for empanadas, Trinidadians, as myself, classify food dishes that have its origins in Latin America or Spain as “Spanish”; it is a cultural norm. Now, I myself have roots from Venezuela, so too are many other Trinidadians. So I am well aware of the origins of the foods such as empanadas and pastelles. I spoke more on this in the article on “The Origins of Parang” (http://www.simplytrinicooking.com/2010/09/parang-i-origins-of-trinidads-parang.html#axzz1rAo69X5Y). Thank you for your observation. I hope this has thrown some light on this controversial topic.

    If anyone else wants to share their thoughts on this topic, feel free to comment.

  30. necia December 18, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    Thank you sooooooooo much for your recipes, my daughters loved your GHP’s Peanut Butter cookies…(perfect the first time around), pertaining 2 your pastelle recipe I cheated…. time was short so I cut letter sized sheets of foil, placed 5 inch wide strips of banana leaf on the foil, folded edges tightly and boiled it seam side down got and loved the banana leaf infused flavour. Just had to say that u made one trini mom (and daughters) very happy thanks a milllion and one.

  31. Dawn January 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    Just stumbled upon this site. Excellent recipe ideas. Hoping to try my hand with the coocoo today. Had to go to four different supermarket before I found ochro. Recently moved from New York to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Anyone coming across this post and live in my neck of the woods please let me know where The West Indin shops are. Thanks a bunch!

  32. Ted February 25, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Is shadon benny easy to obtain in Ohio?

  33. Anonymous May 26, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays..

  34. Karma Alexander November 23, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    Thanks Felix Padilla

  35. Debora Alexis November 23, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    The best stuff! Thank you

  36. Maria November 23, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Great recipe!! Promasa is Colombian :)

  37. Naseem Moha'd November 23, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    i like this but never try to make it ,maybe i will try too this Christmas.

  38. Denise Thomas November 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    I thought it was payme

  39. Andrea Garrett November 23, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Tried one made this way, wasn’t a fan, guess i’ll stick to what I know. Spanish style, made with plantains.

  40. Pamela Pelfrey Lee November 23, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    These are very good. Quite a project to make but certainly worthwhile during the holidays.

  41. Maria Choy November 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Where to buy a press? Thanks you

  42. Mareshah Wells November 23, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    i want to know if theres a way to heat pastelle up. because there just get so dry when i heat them in the microwave

    • Simply Trini Cooking November 23, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

      We usually steam them in a double boiler. A trick for the microwave is to wrap the pastelle in some napkins. That will help retain some of the moisture in the pastelle.

  43. Michelle Bahadur Casimir November 23, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    Robertha Paul

  44. Mareshah Wells November 23, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    Thank you so much

  45. Nikki Lang November 24, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    cant wait to try, but i dont have a pastelle press? what can i use instead..and the leave, ive seen them frozen?

  46. Peppa Pat November 25, 2013 at 12:23 am #

    What about the paime?

  47. lisssa March 16, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    Don’t like PR pastelles, prefer Trini style as that’s what I’m used to. But if I ate 20 more I probably fall in love with them. Don’t give up on ‘em Andrea, once u get uses to them you’ll fall too, like any new foods!

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