Pastelles with Eggs

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    24

Appears in

Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad and Tobago

Sweet Hands

By Ramin Ganeshram

Published 2018

  • About

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.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 cups masa harina

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • pounds lean pork, chicken, or beef, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • ½ pound chorizo or andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 3 red onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken or beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • teaspoons fresh oregano or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • 10 green olives, sliced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper or 2 fresh red chili peppers, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped

Method

Make Dough

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large pot and add the butter, salt, and sugar. When the butter melts, add the masa harina and mix vigorously with a heavy spoon. The mixture should be smooth but not sticky, and should slightly come away from the sides of the pot. Set aside to cool.

Make Filling

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 ½ cup of the stock. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chopped herbs, olives, chili peppers, and remaining ½ cup stock and continue to simmer until the meat is tender and almost all the liquid is absorbed. Add salt to taste.

Assemble & Steam

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 1 heaping tablespoon of the masa harina dough onto the leaf. Pat the dough into a square about ¼ inch thick using the back of a spoon. Place 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture in the center of the dough and place a slice of hard-boiled egg on top. Add another heaping tablespoon of the dough on top of the meat mixture and smooth. Fold the leaf in half to form a long rectangle and smooth it with your fingers so that the filling is evenly distributed. Fold each end under to form a rectangular package and tie with twine. Repeat with remaining leaf squares.

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.

Assemble & Steam

  • Fresh banana leaves* or heavy-duty plastic wrap, cut into 24 12-inch squares
  • Canola oil, as needed
  • 2 large hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • Kitchen twine

* Banana leaves are available in the freezer section of many Latino or Caribbean markets.