As a flavour-a-holic, the first time I had a Jamaican patty I almost had a heart attack. “Where have these been all my life? They’re like Hot Pockets that don’t taste like garbage!”
My friend Konrad (of Old Money Massive) and I have an ongoing (and joking) feud. He spends a lot of time in New York and is all about authentic Caribbean food, which means that Jamaican patties MUST come with coco bread wrapped around them, while I’m just excited to eat something spicy and meaty. There are actually very few places in Vancouver that serve coco bread, so when we finally found one of these fine establishments, after all the hype I was actually quite mad that it was just a plain bun with no flavour, for some reason having thought that it would taste like coconut because of the name and also because it would have complemented the patty’s spiciness perfectly.
“What is this?! It’s like eating a regular hot dog bun outside of a Hot Pocket!”
Anyhoo, Konrad’s birthday rolled around, and he never celebrates it, so my brother Tarek and I decided to surprise him with a little party, with tons of cured meat/sausages (he’s from Poland!) and a giant curry-flavored meat pie, which was like a ginormous Jamaican patty. In a hilarious turn of events, he actually showed up at Tarek’s house when I was baking it, and we had to lie and say it was for someone else. Whoa mama.
Long story short, he loved the pie, it turned out delicious, and everyone was happy. I swiped a reliable pastry recipe that I’ve used many times (this time adding a little spice to it), and made the meat/veg filling from scratch. Usually I put a ton of garlic and onions in my food and write out a bit (okay, a lot) less because you aren’t all insane, but for something like this, you definitely want something that will shake your taste buds awake, just in case they were napping.
Jamaican Patty Pie Meat Filling
Makes enough to fill one heaping pie
2 pounds/900 g lean ground beef (don’t go for anything leaner!)
1 medium onion, cut into strips
1 head of garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 carrot, diced into pinky fingernail-sized cubes (at school we call it medium dice)
1 potato, diced into pinky fingernail-sized cubes (see above)
1 tbsp hot curry powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
butter/unflavored oil/beef fat for frying veggies
salt and pepper, to taste
Curried French Pastry Pie Crust (adapted from www.allrecipes.com)
Makes 2 pie crusts/one top and one bottom
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp white sugar
1 cup shortening (super COLD!)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
5 tbsp ice water
1 tsp chili pepper flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 egg, beaten
1. Melt the butter/oil/fat in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat and sauté the onions until they caramelize and turn brown. Make sure to use enough to keep everything nice and slippery or else they will burn and stick. Ugh!
2. Turn the heat down to medium and add the rest of the meat ingredients and cook until done, stirring often and breaking up the meat as it cooks.
3. Make sure there’s meat juice and oil left (when the meat is fully cooked), and add the flour. It will thicken what’s left and make a yummy sauce that will keep the beef from crumbling too much all over the place when you cut the pie open. Cook it for a few minutes to get rid of the raw starch taste, and don’t add extra flour because this will continue to thicken as it cools, yipes! If it seems kind of pasty because there wasn’t enough fat or things have dried up, add a little water (or beef stock if you happen to have any lying around) to make it a little more saucy and less pasty.
4. Taste the meat and see if you need salt or pepper. Set it aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
5. Get a huge bowl and sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and turmeric. The chili flakes won’t fit through a sifter/sieve, so toss them in and stir everything up nicely.
6. Use a pastry cutter, 2 knives, or a food processor (use the plastic blades that come with it) to cut the cold shortening into the dry ingredients until it looks like pea-sized chunks. Make sure that you don’t work it too much and turn it into fluffy powder: It will turn out mealy and crumbly. The chunks are blobs of fat that create steam when they cook off and create yummy, flaky layers of pastry.
7. Whisk together (in a little bowl) the non-beaten egg, vinegar, and 4 of the 5 tablespoons of water. Add it slowly to the pastry crumbs while stirring with a fork (I usually do 2 or 3 batches). You want the dough to start to cling together. If it feels super dry, add the last of the water.
8. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, throw it in the fridge for 10 minutes, then take it out and cut it in half.
9. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling-pin until about 3 mm thick, turning it 90 degrees after each roll (center-outward, from North to South) or else it will stick. By the way, if you have a porous counter top/work surface that stains easily, make sure to scrub it down right away or do all of this between 2 sheets of parchment paper because the yellowness of the pastry might stain it. Eeep!
10. Brush off the extra flour, fold the dough carefully in half twice (so it makes a triangle), then put the point in the center of the pan and unfold. Really press the bottom’s edge into the pan so it doesn’t budge and shrink up too much on you. Go around gently with a paring knife or pair of food scissors and trim off any major excess. Poke holes (I do about 20 jabs…this is called docking) with a fork into the crust. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights, or dried peas/lentils/something that won’t get hurt by the heat. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, then cool. This process, called blind-baking, will keep the crust from getting soggy with the meat sitting on it.
11. While that’s going on, roll out the other half of the pie dough. After the bottom crust has cooled, fill it with the meat, drape the top crust over, poke a few steam holes in it with a knife, trim the excess and decorate the edge. There are actually a lot of ways to do it and I’m not particularly good at any of them (braiding the dough??), so you can check out this page for ideas. I usually flute the edge because it’s pretty and easy.
12. Use a brush (or your fingertips, which is what I do) to coat the pie with the beaten egg (this is called an egg wash). It helps it crisp up and gives it some gorgeous colour.
13. Bake the pie for about 30 minutes. See how it’s doing. If the edges are colouring too much (and they might burn before the rest cooks through), make a giant border out of tinfoil and curl it over for protection. Try to go for about 40 minutes total baking time (not including the blind-baking), depending on your oven.
14. Cool it, if you have the patience, and enjoy with friends.
It turned out to be a massive pie, so it’s a good thing that he didn’t complain about not having coco bread to cover it. I found that the meat grease seeped through the dough and ended up frying the pie crust on the bottom, which was pretty excellent-tasting. Hooray for mishaps!