Jamaican Patty Party

A few days ago, my friend B. who lives out in the country asked if I had a recipe for "interior meat pie." At first, I thought she meant something along the lines of steak and kidney pie, and I racked my brain over which cuts of meat would be most appropriate. Did she mean organ meats or something along the lines of haggis, perhaps?

When she realized that I was knitting my brow over the word interior for far too long, B. clarified. "No, something hand held, like a snack, using ground beef."

Jamaican patties just out of the oven. (Kim O'Donnel)

Ah! A patty is what she's talking about. Or maybe not. There's a different word for nearly every continent to describe the notion of stuffing meat inside pastry (now I get the "interior" reference) -- empanada, empandinha, saltena, fetayer, samosa, simbusak, calzone, pasty, and of course, the patty, which hails from Jamaica.

It had more been than a year since I made a batch of patties, and the idea of a hand-held savory snack had my mouth watering. I quickly got to work.

This time of year always makes me yearn for the Caribbean, where sultry air and open windows are a year-round pleasure, where the outdoors become your living room and you hear chickens (as well as your neighbors) clucking at all times of day and night, where the music makes you sway and stay up late.

If you like ground beef, this is a recipe worth trying. The filling is simple yet multilayered in flavor, and good enough to eat on its own. And the dough, spiced with curry powder, is straightforward and forgiving when you roll it out. I've done versions with butter as well as with lard, to see what would happen, and it works either way. Your choice.

Now, if you'd like to give this a whirl but prefer a veggie version, I've got filling details that follow the meat version.

Either way, let's crank up some reggae and get this patty party started. And by all means, share your favorite "interior" pastry tale, from any part of this planet.
Jamaican Beef Patties
Adapted from "Lucinda's Authentic Jamaican Kitchen" by Lucinda Scala Quinn and "Culinaria the Caribbean" by Rosemary Parkinson

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 cup unsalted cold butter (1 stick), diced, or equal amounts cold lard
3/4 cup ice-cold water
1 egg, with 2 teaspoons water, for glazing

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and curry powder in a large mixing bowl. Add butter or lard, and, using fingertips or a fork, cut into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.

Gradually add water and toss gently with hands to combine, until dough just forms a ball. Don't overmix; dough will become tough.

Flatten dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 scallions, cleaned, white parts only, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Scotch bonnet chile peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme or fresh sprigs, leaves pulled
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1 ounce rum (optional)
Oil spray for greasing pan

Heat oil in a large skillet until hot and add beef, onion, scallions, garlic, chili peppers and thyme. Brown meat and let liquid evaporate, about 8 minutes. Add curry powder, allspice, salt and pepper, and stir to combine, allowing crust to form in pan.

Add water and stir mixture, scraping bottom to loosen crust. Add bread crumbs, stir. Consistency should be thick and mushy. Cover, reduce heat to low. Cook about 15 minutes. If meat gets too dry, add more water, cooking until absorbed, or rum, which helps to loosen the bits stuck on the bottom of the pan and imparts great flavor. Remove from heat, let cool.

Preheat oven to 400.

Dust work surface with flour. Unwrap dough and allow to warm.

Gently pound dough with rolling pin and roll to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a small saucer, cut dough into circles about 7 inches in diameter.

Place 1 tablespoon filling in center of circle. Brush egg glaze on edges and fold dough over filling until edges meet. With a fork, crimp edges until well-sealed. Brush glaze on top.

Place patties on greased baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm. Can be frozen individually and reheated in oven.

Makes 12-15 patties.

Veggie Filling
From "Lucinda's Authentic Jamaican Kitchen" by Lucinda Scala Quinn

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 pound Calabaza squash, peeled and chopped (about 2 ½ cups) - alternatively use a few sweet potatoes
1 1 /2 cups water
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded (about 1 ½ cups)
1 medium potato, diced
1 carrot diced
1/2 chayote (aka cho cho, christophene or mirilton), peeled, pitted and diced (nice if you can get it, but totally optional)
1 whole Scotch bonnet pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add curry powder and cook for 2 minutes, continuing to stir, making sure not to burn.

Add pumpkin and 3/4 cup of the water and blend it well with curry mixture. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, or until pumpkin is soft enough to mash.

In another pot, add cabbage and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 3 minutes. Drain completely and set aside.

In the skillet, Mash pumpkin until smooth, add remaining water and stir. Add cabbage, potato, carrot, chayote, Scotch bonnet, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Remove Scotch bonnet, and spoon mixture into a bowl, allowing it to cool before filling pastry.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 16, 2007; 7:54 AM ET Baking , Fall Produce
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Kim -

My mom made bierrocks, the German version which involves a yeast dough. I have been craving these for awhile now. Alas, I did not listen when she tried to teach me about yeast breads.

Do you think that I could use the dough from these patties but add the filling I know? The filling is ground beef (or turkey), cabbage spiced with caraway seeds. Would I have to change the time of baking or temperature?


Posted by: Minniwanca | May 16, 2007 8:51 AM

Hi Kim!

Thank you so much for this recipe. I love beef patties.

Posted by: LisaLuvs2Cook | May 16, 2007 8:52 AM

Perfect timing the Curry Shack at the Market (Baltimore under the JFX on Sunday mornings) was selling one stuffed with ground turkey. DH loved it and asked me to find a recipe. Can't wait to try it.

Posted by: late to the party | May 16, 2007 10:10 AM

My Mom made pasties. I've tried to duplicate her recipe but I just can't get it right. A pasty was also the perfect lunch at a little place just over the Mackinac bridge on the way to see the family. I have such fond memories of that flaky pastry filled with corse-ground beef, potato, rutabaga, and onion. I love the idea of a veggie version with carribean flavors. I'm going to give this one a try.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | May 16, 2007 11:30 AM

This sounds really good although I think I am going to try it with chicken instead of beef since my husband won't eat ground beef. It sounds like a great recipe!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 12:06 PM

Oh, how fun! My bf used to love the frozen ones but the MSG in them started triggering migraines. These will be a tasty suprise sometime soon.

Posted by: Falls Church | May 16, 2007 2:18 PM

Oooo. Looks good! I make these nameless, taco-inspired things for my kids' lunch boxes. Refrigerated CORN biscuits rolled out to about a 6 inch round. Put a blob of prepared taco filling in the middle. (I do ground turkey with a little refried bean mixed in and HALF a packet of that dreadful Old El Paso stuff my kids love...) A pinch of shredded cheese, fold it over and seal the edges. Bake and cool. Mini container of salsa and you're in business!

Posted by: DC | May 17, 2007 9:34 AM

My husband is Russian and we make the Russian variety called Chibureki. Just half ground beef, half ground pork (for us, you can make them in any combo you want), garlic or onion and salt and pepper to taste. Cut the dough into about 7.5" circles, fill meat mix, folder over the dough in half and pinch shut. Then deep fry. Ugh...I know deep frying is so not healthy, but when the pastries don't open at the seams (ideal, but tricky),the juice that builds up making the meat so juicy is just heaven.

Posted by: Lizka | May 17, 2007 10:21 AM

You can avoid the (indisputably) dreadful Old El Paso/McCormick seasoning packet and its salt and MSG by making your own. I promise your kids will never know the difference... and I have made this for kids and for finicky adults alike.

Below is the blend I use (this amount for 1 lb. ground meat. Just as with the packet, blend this with 3/4 c. water and add to the cooked meat until it simmers and thickens. You can make more of the dry mix and store it in an airtight container for future use.) Adjust the individual spice quantities to suit your heat preferences, particularly depending on what kind of chili powder you use. I use Penzey's medium-- the McCormick or Schillig or whatever regular store-bought kind will be milder.

Thanks for posting this recipe idea. It might be something my husband would like for his lunches as an easy variant on sandwiches.

Taco seasoning:
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 teaspoons chili powder
4 teaspoons dried minced onion

Posted by: For DC | May 17, 2007 1:21 PM

Made these yesterday so yummy, I made a second batch for the freezer. I made mine with ground turkey. The first batch was better as I let the spices really carmelize before adding the water and break crumbs. I didn't have scotch bonnets but used that tube of red pepper you find in the produce section ( about 1T) with good results.

Posted by: late to the party | May 21, 2007 1:56 PM

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