The first thing I missed leaving Jamaica after 6 years wasn’t the blue skies, white beaches nor the hot sun… it was Jamaican Patties. Semi-circular flaky pastry cases, golden in colour, traditionally filled with beef or chicken, served hot in a paper bag and eaten on-the-go. They were sold full-size, cocktail size, as singles or in boxes called travel packs.
It took me a few years to decide on my favourite. In the end it was the beef & cheese ones from Tastee Patties, a radical choice I was told! However it wasn’t until my last year in Kingston that I discovered that you could also get them as a “sandwich” - basically the patty cut open with lettuce and tomato added - this helped me pass off a patty feeding frenzy as somewhat healthy.
You see patties in general weren’t gourmet food [the exception being the freshly baked, and particularly spicy, chicken patties from Devon House Bakery]. Half the time you couldn’t identify the ingredients and although you could distinguish the meat source, you couldn’t really say what part of the cow or chicken was used in it’s production. [This lead to me being banned by my husband from eating them whilst pregnant… just in case]. However like many amazing street foods your brain glazes over these minor details in order to satisfy your cravings.
It goes without saying that the best patties are the ones you buy in situ in Jamaica, usually eaten whilst driving, dropping all the flakes of pastry over the car seats, but in an attempt to reproduce those little half moons of heaven these will have to suffice until the next time I land in Kingston.
Jamaican Beef Patties
For the Pastry Dough:
520g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
250 g cold vegetable shortening, cut into small cubes
235ml ice cold water (plus more if needed)
For the Filling:
2 lbs ground beef
3 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon mild chilli pepper
1 beef oxo cube, crumbled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
130g diced onions
1 fresh chilli pepper, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
5 tablespoons tomato ketchup
100g finely sliced green onions
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
¼ cup water for sealing
Make the Patty Dough:
Put the flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and turmeric into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Rub the shortening cubes into flour, using your fingers, until you get a texture similar to breadcrumbs. Pour in half the ice water and mix with your hands to bring the dough together. Keep adding ice water 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time until the mixture forms a dough.
Cut the dough into 2 large pieces, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Make the Filling:
Season the beef by putting it into a large bowl and add the allspice, black pepper, chilli powder and oxo cube. Mix together. [It’s handy to use a stand mixer to combine the meat filling, but you can easily use a big wooden spoon]. Put to one side.
Heat oil in a large frying pan until hot. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add the chilli pepper, garlic and thyme and continue to sauté for another minute. Add a teaspoon of salt, then the seasoned ground beef. Stir to mix in, breaking up any clumps, and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add the ketchup and season with salt and pepper again, if needed.
Pour in 500ml of water and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and whatever is remaining has reduced to a thick sauce. [If you like your food very spicy test the mixture at this point and add more chilli powder or minced chilli at this point]
Fold in spring onions, remove from heat and let cool completely.
Assemble the patties:
Roll out one of the dough discs until you can cut out three 12cm circle.
Put a few heaped tablespoons of the meat filling onto one side of each circle. Fill with as much meat as you dare without risking them to burst open. Dip a finger into the water and moisten the edges of the pastry. Fold over the other half of the pastry to make a half moon shape. Press the edges together to seal. Then take a fork and crimp around the edges.
Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put into the fridge to chill until you have made the other patties. Chill all prepared patties for at least 30 minutes before baking.
Baking the patties:
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Beat the egg and water together to make an egg wash. Brush the patties with the egg wash and bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
Transfer to a wire rack and serve warm.