In this post, I provide instructions on how to make pastelles, Trini style. Pastelles can be made with either minced chicken, minced beef or minced turkey. Oh how I love pastelles! It is a annual Christmas tradition to prepare pastelles in Trinidad.
When my mother makes pastelles for Christmas, for sure before the year ends, there are just a few left. She would then have to make a next batch for the New Year. I would eat one for breakfast, about two for lunch and another one for dinner. My kids do the same as well. They also enjoy my mother’s pastelles.
Ingredients for corn meal dough
2 cups of yellow corn meal
1/2 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup luke warm water
Ingredients for Filling
4 large grated garlic cloves
1 diced diced onion
Finely chopped thyme
Finely chopped chive
Seedless Green Olives (with the red pits)
1 teaspoon Pepper sauce (optional)
The first and hardest part is to get the banana leaves to wrap the pastelles in. My mother normally has a banana tree in her yard so the leaves are easy to obtain. If not she would have to get some from a friend. If the leaves are really hard for you to get, you can use foil paper which is easily accessible and easy to use. But the real ingredient is the banana leaves, it gives the pastelle its authentic taste.
When picking the leaves ensure that they are not split or pick the ones that have the least splits in them.
With a damp piece of cloth, wipe the leaves. Then put each one on the stove top to heat and soften the leaves. If this is not done, the leaves will break when folding the pastels. After all the leaves are heated, cut them into small pieces, big enough to wrap each pastelle.
How to prepare the minced beef
Put the meat in a pot, add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the grated garlic and finely chopped onion. Allow the vegetables to saute for about 2 minutes and then add the minced beef. Mix in the meat with the sauted vegetables. Add all the seasonings, salt, black pepper, grated ginger, finely chopped thyme and chive, raisins, thinly sliced olives.
You can also use the black olives, instead of the green ones, they are less salty. With all the seasonings added, allow the mince meat to cook. Note: Minced chicken, pork or turkey can be used or you can be creative and be 100 vegetarian by using maybe some blended lentil peas or maybe soy.
How to prepare the dough
Pour the corn meal into a mixing bowl, add the flour, butter and salt. The reason for adding the flour is that without it, the corn meal will be a bit too stiff. Gradually add some water while mixing the dough. The dough will begin to combine, do not allow the dough to get too soft, it will stick to the banana leaf.
Separate into mini balls (remember the size of the banana leaves so do not make the balls too big). Okay this is where the real hard work begins. It is recommended to have all your ingredients easily accessible. The banana leaves cut into small pieces, cooked mince meat, a small bowl of vegetable oil and strips of twine cut long enough to wrap around each pastel.
On a clear space on your table or counter top, place one piece of banana leaf, gently dip one of the corn meal balls into the oil and press the ball flat onto the banana leaf using the ball of your hand. Take a tablespoon of minced beef and place it in the center of the corn meal that is now pressed on the banana leaf. Begin to fold the banana leaf very gently, wrapping its contents like a gift and tie together with a piece of twine.
When all the minced beef and corn meal dough is used, the pastel has to be boiled. Put about 3/4 water a deep pot and put the pot on the stove. Allow the water to boil. Carefully put each pastel in the pot with the boiling water and allow the pastel to cook for one hour. What my mother does to ensure that all the pastels are cooked, she removes the first half of the pastels in the pot and put them aside. The other half she would also remove and put in a separate temporary holding container. She would then put the first half set back into the pot and then the second half. Then she would pot the pot back on the stove allow the pastel to cook for another 45 minutes. This way she is sure that they are all cooked.