Pastelles resemble tamales. They are widely sold by street vendors at Christmastime and also made at home as a must-have part of the holiday meal. My father’s version is heavily influenced by his years living in Venezuela and contains eggs, but the traditional Trinidadian version does not. I give you both, beginning with the egg version. In either case, pastelles are traditionally wrapped in a soharee leaf, which is similar to a banana leaf, or in a banana leaf itself, and boiled or steamed. However, heavy-duty plastic wrap or corn husks work well too.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or deep saucepan. Add the meat and sausage and sauté until lightly browned. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and
Scald the banana leaf squares in boiling salted water until malleable. Remove them from the water and set aside to cool.
Brush a leaf square with oil and spoon
Place a steamer basket or colander in a large pot halfway filled with hot water (the water level must be below the bottom of the steamer basket). Put a single layer of pastelles in the steamer basket and cover the pot. Simmer for about 45 minutes if using banana leaves or 20 minutes if using plastic. Remove from the water and drain, then place in a baking dish covered with foil in a warm oven while you steam the rest of the pastelles. Serve hot.
* Banana leaves are available in the freezer section of many Latino or Caribbean markets.
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