The patty is as Jamaican as reggae. This savoury pastry traditionally contains minced beef baked inside a flaky shell, which is usually tinted a golden yellow with an egg yolk mixture or turmeric. It is a traditional lunch and prepared in several ways, from the buttery pyramid shaped shrimp version at a bakery at Devon House to the version of the island’s three main chains Tastee, Juici Beef and Mother’s which all share the same shape but each with its own distinctive take on the pastry. Every Jamaican has their favourite and it is a debate that has gone on for years. The way it is enjoyed is also an individual choice including placing it in the centre of buttery coco bread and eating it like a sandwich.
It also represents the country’s heritage as a ‘melting pot’. The beef patty is a product of colonialism and migration developed after the introduction of the Cornish pasty to the Caribbean, mixed with cumin and curry seasonings of Indian indentured servants in Jamaica and cayenne pepper from African traditional cooking. The indigenous Jamaican hot pepper, Scotch bonnet, was the final touch for the distinctive flavour.
Many flavours are available from shrimp to callaloo or lobster and even seasonal specials like curried goat or pulled pork. The traditional and continual favourite is of course the Beef Patty. Below is one of many recipes for making this Jamaican staple.
Ingredients for Meat Filling:
2 lbs. Ground Beef
2 stalks Scallions (chopped)
1 Large Onion (chopped)
1½ cups Bread Crumbs
2 stalks Thyme (finely chopped)
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1 Scotch Bonnet Pepper (chopped and seeded)
1 cup Beef Stock
Ingredients for Patty Crust:
2 lbs. Self Rising Flour
1 cup Beef Suet
1 tbsp. Ground Tumeric or Jamaican Curry Powder
1 stick Margarine
1 pint Cold Water (at or below 40 degrees)
Method for Crust:
Mix flour and curry powder or tumeric, beef suet, and margarine together in until they look like crumbs. Add the cold water to the mixture to make the dough. Sprinkle some flour on a clean countertop so the dough doesn’t stick and roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Roll until the dough is about 1/8” thick. Use a saucer or bowl to make circular cuts in the dough. Let the pieces sit in a bowl for about 30 minutes, or while you are making the meat filling.
Method for Meat Filling:
Brown ground beef in a skillet, and then add onions, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper, salt, sugar, and scallions. Turn the heat to medium. Use a fork or spatula to fold in the ingredients. Then add the beef stock and allow the meat to cook for about 20 minutes, and then add bread crumbs. Cook for another 7 minutes, taste adding more salt if needed.
Method for Baking the Patties:
You need to pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add spoons of meat filling to the pre-cut dough pieces. Fold over dough to form a half-moon shape. Use the end of a dining fork to seal the crescent edge of the patty while making a pattern. Place the patties on a lightly greased baking sheet and brush each patty with a little oil or melted margarine. Bake for about 30-35 minutes.
Try different fillings but be aware that cooking times may vary.
If you don’t have a rolling pin, use a smooth soda bottle.