Well this is going to take you some time! LOL! My recipe for Pastelle, although time consuming, makes all the difference mainly because of how I prepared the meat. I’ve already gotten several “best pastelle I ever had” comments. For those of you who don’t know what this type of Pastelle is, here are the basics. They are made and eaten in Trinidad and Tobago during Christmas time. Precooked cornmeal serves as the base/outer layer, while the filling consists of meat/s of your choice and several other flavorful ingredients such as raisins, capers and olives. Stemming from Spanish settlers way back in the day, variations are made in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Columbia, just to name a few. It is pretty similar to a Tamale.
I never liked them growing up because believe it or not I was once a picky eater. Today, Christmas isn’t Christmas without it. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, Pastelles hit the spot. I made a ton, gave a few to my Trini friends who I knew wouldn’t make it themselves, and the rest are in the freezer and will be enjoyed from now till the end of Christmas.
If you’re going to follow this recipe, I suggest making the meat a day or two in advance unless you have all day. Otherwise you can use ground meat to reduce overall cooking/preparation time. The recipe that follows (all the way at the end) makes 24 pastelles. The pictures make 50!
For the meat: ALL the herbs, scotch bonnet pepper (a very spicy pepper), pimentos (I drove all the way to Queens to get them but you could use any none hot, or sweet pepper), garlic, lemon, onion, ginger, apple cider vinegar, salt, black pepper, and paprika.
I used pork shoulder and beef chuck stewing pieces with and without the bone.
Process the herbs (minus the bay leaf and thyme), along with the garlic, ginger, pimentos and lemon juice. Leave a few garlic cloves and pimentos behind to stick into the fat layer of the pork. Cut the onion in 4 and leave the scotch bonnet whole. Let the meat marinade overnight.
Take the meat out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before slow roasting it in the oven for 4 hours. I roasted my meat in a dutch oven and a deep oven proof stewing pot. Cover the meat for the first 3 hours while it roasts at 325 degrees, then uncover and raise the temperature to 375, cook for an additional, 45-60 minutes. Let the meat cool completely and shred, discarding any and all fat and bones.
Now for the rest of the filling. Raisins, olives, capers, onion, pimento, scallion, the leafy part of the celery stalk, cilantro or chadon beni, thyme and parsley. Sauté everything starting with the onions, adding the capers, olives and raisins last. Don’t overcook these (7 minutes tops), make sure there’s still a bit of a bite.
Add the sautéed veggies along with tomato puree/sauce to the shredded meat.
Cornmeal time! 5 simple ingredients: precooked cornmeal, salt, butter (soften), hot water and oil (for the banana leaves). Add the salt and butter to the cornmeal, fully incorporating by breaking the butter up with your fingers. Add water a bit at a time, until the mixture is soft yet malleable. Form 2-3 ounce balls and cover with a wet towel to avoid drying out.
I found these banana leaves in the freezer section of a Spanish Grocery Store. Cut and wipe them clean. I also found kitchen twine and this tortilla press at the same store.
Almost at the finish line! Place one cornmeal ball between two greased banana leaves. Press, remove the top layer banana leaf and add about two heaping tablespoons of the filling, fold and wrap with twine. I would wrap each pastelle in a layer of foil if you make enough to freeze.
Steam for 20-25 minutes and enjoy!
I filled these cute Christmas tins with a few to gift to my friends!
For the Meat:
Makes enough meat for about 2 dozen pastelles (you could freeze some of the meat to make tacos one day!)
- 3 lbs pork shoulder
- 2 lbs beef stewing pieces with and without bones
- 2 bay leaves each torn into 4 pieces
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 3 tbsp fresh oregano
- 2 tbsp cilantro or 1 tbsp chadon beni
- 3 tbsp parsley
- 1 head of garlic, peeled (reserve 2 or 2 for pork slits)
- 2 scotch bonnet peppers
- 7 pimentos (reserve 1 or 2 for pork slits)
- juice from 1 lemon
- 2 medium onions each cut into 4
- 2 tsp fresh chopped ginger
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 tsp paprika
- black pepper
Make 1-inch slits all over the top of the pork, stick pieces of garlic and pimentos into the slits. Place pork and beef into 2 separate oven safe pots with lids. I used a dutch oven for the pork and an oven safe pot for the beef.
In a food processor blend all ingredients (with the exception of the bay leaf and thyme) until smooth. Spread mixture all over the pork and thoroughly mix into the beef. Add the bay leaf, thyme and scotch bonnet to the meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Leave the meat covered with lid or foil and bake for approximately 3 hours. During the 3 hours check to make sure that the whole scotch bonnet pepper hasn’t burst or exploded. Remove the pepper if it looks as thought it is about to burst (you do not want the pepper to burst and make the meat too spicy). At the 3rd hour, raise the temperature to 375 and bake for an additional 45-60 minutes. Pork should read 180°F on an internal thermometer and shred easily with a fork.
Let the meat cool, shred and discard all bones and fat. Store until ready to make pastelle filling.
For the filling:
2.5 lbs shredded pork and beef
- 1 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped chives
3 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
4 pimento peppers chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
2 tbs chopped celery (leafy top)
1 tsp chopped scotch bonnet pepper
7 tbsp Capers
6 tbsp stuffed olives, chopped
1/2 cup raisins chopped
- black pepper
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add onions, cook for about 2 minutes. Add pimentos, scotch bonnet pepper and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add all other ingredients with the exception of the meat and tomato sauce. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add to a large mixing bowl along with the meat and tomato sauce. Stir thoroughly to combine. Set aside until ready to put the pastelles together.
For the Cornmeal outer layer:
- 4 cups precooked yellow cornmeal
- 5-6 cups very warm water
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
Combine cornmeal, butter and salt with your fingers. Breaking up all of the butter.
Add water a cup at a time until you have soft, malleable dough. Divide the dough into 24 balls (about 2-2.5 ounces each). Cover with a damp cloth to prevent drying.
Putting together the Pastelles:
Place one ball in-between two greased banana leaves and press to about 8 inches in width, spoon two heaping tablespoons of the filling onto the middle of the dough, fold and wrap with twine.
Wrap each pastelle in foil and store in the freezer. When ready to enjoy them, steam for 20-25 minutes until cooked.