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
Read the recipe carefully before attempting to make this dish!
TRINIDAD CORNMEAL PASTELLE
1 lb. minced beef, seasoned
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)
2 -3 large fig (banana) leaves
String to tie
Prepare the meat:
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.
Cook the meat until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.
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.
Prepare the leaf:
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 tablespoons of meat filling to the centre of the dough.
Fold the leaf over to form a neat package.
Tie with twine (from a bag) or any strong string that can secure the parcels if they are cooked in boiling water. The string should be about 40 inches long.
Here are the parcels of pastelle ready to be boiled in hot water.
Place in a pot of boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes.
When cooked, drain the water. Cornmeal Pastelle is ready to be served.
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.
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. I also have a gluten free pastelle, cassava pastelle you might also want to try. Check that out as well.