Jamaican Beef Patties

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When my brother and I were little, our mum would buy those pre-cooked, pre-packaged beef patties that you stuck in the microwave. They always burned my mouth. But I’ve always loved them. There is something so intoxicating about pastry and beef and spices.

I found a recipe for beef patties on a site that has now been taken down. Luckily I saved the recipe, because my brother and I made up a batch of patties last weekend. We had a production line going: he would roll out the pastry, I would fill it and pinch the edges together. We churned out almost three dozen.

This version of Jamaican beef patties is much more substantial than the pre-packaged ones you find in the store. The beef paste isn’t paste, and the pastry crumbles in your mouth in delicious, buttery goodness. If you want to make the beef stretch further, you could try putting mashed potatoes and/or peas into the beef mixture. I’ve always wanted to try that, despite compromising the purity of the patty. 😉

Filling

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 lb lean lean ground beef, lamb, or goat
  • 1 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2–1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1–5 green or red chili peppers (optional)

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the ground beef, lamb, or goat and sauté until the meat is well browned and very finely minced (you will need to stir constantly to get the right texture—I use a potato masher to mince the meat finely). Add the spices and breadcrumbs and stir until the mixture coats the meat entirely. Let mixture cool COMPLETELY before using.

Make pastry.

Pastry

  • 2 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 cup butter , ice cold, cut into small (1/4 inch) cubes
  • 1/2 cup ice cold water

Divide dough into 10 equal portions. Roll each portion out on lightly floured surface to about 6 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick.

Once cooled, roll out all circles. Working quickly, fill one half of all ten pastries with 4oz of meat filling. Brush the edges with beaten egg or water and fold over on the filled half. Transfer to a baking sheet with a large spatula, and using a floured fork, crimp the edges of the pastry. Brush pastries with remaining egg. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5-8 minutes before serving.

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Sexy Spicy Chocolate Cookies

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There is nothing sexier than the heady mixture of rich chocolate and cayenne pepper. I remember a scene in Chocolat where Juliette Binoche adds cayenne pepper to her hot chocolate. Ever since then, I have done the same with my hot chocolate. So when I discovered these cookies, I just about died in ecstasy.

These cookies are perfectly crunchy on the outside, and soft, melt-in-your-mouth chewy on the inside. The best part? They’re vegan! (My boyfriend refused to believe that they were vegan until I showed him the recipe. Score!)

Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, use a fork to vigorously mix together the oil and sugar.  Let stand a few minutes before whisking in the syrup, milk, and vanilla extract.

Sift in the remaining ingredients, stirring as you add them. Once all ingredients are added, mix until you’ve got pliable dough.

Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls. Transfer the dough balls to a baking sheet at least 2 inches apart (they do spread). Bake for 10-12 minutes; they should be a bit spread and crackly on top. Remove the cookies from the oven, let them cool 5 minutes, and then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. And let the addiction begin.

Cinnamon Pastry Puffs

I may have nearly set the house on fire last night. Oops. (Sorry, Mum.)

But it was all worth it for these little beauties.

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I’ve found a few recipes for cinnamon pastry puffs, but none of them seem to work out in my favour. Either my kitchen becomes consumed by a blanket of smoke (like last night), or the pastry ends up soggy and undercooked. Nothing is worse than pastry that is undercooked. Or, you know, a burned-out shell of a house….

The trick to perfection in this case is setting the oven to a high temperature. I started at 425 degrees F, but should have started at 475. They also work really well (and I might say, better) in muffin tins. That way, the butter won’t seep onto the bottom of the oven and lead to the panicked waving of arms trying to get the smoke out (which almost never works, by the way).

Pastry

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, chilled
  • 1/2–1 cup cold water

Mix flour, sugar, salt, and butter together until well combined. Some large chunks of butter are OK. Add the water 1 tbsp at a time until pastry holds together but is not sticky. Chill for half an hour before rolling.

Cinnamon Pastry Puffs

Ingredients:

  • Pastry (see above)
  • 2 tbsp melted butter, unsalted
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2–4 tbsp sugar, depending on preference

Dust a clean surface with flour. Place pastry in the middle and also dust with flour. Roll out to 1/4 of an inch thick in roughly a rectangular shape. You can always trim uneven bits if you like.

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Once pastry is rolled, brush the melted butter to the edge, making sure everything is covered. Dust with cinnamon and sugar (I like to mix them together first) and roll.

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Use a knife to cut the roll into 1-inch slices, place on a baking sheet (or muffin tin) and bake at 475 degrees F for 10–15 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

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Let cool 5–10 minutes before serving.

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Tourtière

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I recently spent a week with my grandmother.

She is old. She wobbles when she walks. And her hands are losing strength more quickly than she would like. Consequently, she ends up eating a lot of frozen foods, forgoing health for convenience.

Not that I can blame her. Sometimes I have trouble making toast in the morning, let alone a meal that incorporates every possible food group (wine counts, right?). So when I offered to go spend a week with her and cook her some healthy meals, I naively assumed that she would actually LET me do the cooking. I ate so much processed cheese that now I’m even avoiding oranges. Let’s hope it’s a temporary aversion.

The one thing I did manage to make for her was a tourtière. Originally, I used this recipe from the Food Network, but I’ve tweaked it to meet my personal preferences. I generally like heavily spiced foods and I found the Food Network recipe to be too mild for my tastes.

Pastry

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold butter, chopped into bits
  • 1/2–1 cup cold water

Combine dry ingredients and add chopped butter. Mix butter into dry mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Large chunks of butter are ok (and even encouraged!). Add water 1 tbsp at a time until mixture holds together in a ball. Cut in half and refrigerate. Makes enough for 1 double-crust pie.

Filling

Ingredients:

  • 1–1 1/2 cup mashed potatoes, sans butter
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs extra lean ground beef, pork, or combination
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup apple cider or beef stock*
  • 1/2 cup water, if needed
  • 1 egg for glazing (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook potatoes until well done. Mash roughly and set aside.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add enough butter to grease the bottom and sauté onions and garlic until translucent and fragrant. Add ground meat and cook until no pink remains.

Once the meat has cooked, add the peas, the mushrooms, and all the spices at once. Stir until well combined and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the cider or beef stock and water (if needed) and the bay leaves and let sit until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the mashed potatoes to soak up the remaining liquid and set aside to cool.

While mixture is cooling, roll out pastry dough. Fill a 9-inch pie pan or springform pan with the filling and top with pastry and brush with egg. Make sure to cut steam holes in the top.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 40-60 minutes or until pastry is a golden brown. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

*One time, I was out of beef stock and apple cider, so I decided to use rum. It was delicious, but lacked in salt. If you use a low-sodium liquid, make sure to up the salt quotient.