My childhood evokes memories so clear to me, it’s as if they occurred yesterday. I can still remember the first time I picked up a book to read. I was four years-old. I remember sitting alone near the door of my bedroom, attempting to read Judy Blume’s, Freckle Juice. My mom had taught me how to sound out letters from the alphabet a few weeks prior and since then, I was eager to read. After a few minutes of difficulty, without the help of my mom, the sounds from each letter on the pages of the book began to form into words. Words that inspired me to read more. Words that inspired me to appreciate literature.
Nowadays, whenever I pick up a book, I cannot help but remember my first ever moments of reading, and how sophisticated my taste in literature has become. I am still puzzled as to how I went from reading books by Judy Blume, to books by William Faulkner!
Anyway, you may be wondering what my first memory of reading has to do with the recipe I am sharing with you today. Well, this recipe is one of those recipes that captures a memory from my past- a memory of the first time I attempted to bake something- one of the first dishes I had ever baked.
Yes, the first dish!
Why Jamaican beef patties? Well, besides the fact that the homemade kind always tastes amazing, and besides the fact that my aunt G and I wanted to make beef patties (did I mention she’s Jamaican?), I wanted to make something that challenged me to cook and bake at the same time. And damn, my six year-old self was freakin’ good at it!
My aunt G- has one rule about Jamaican beef patties- season the meat however you’d like! I recently asked her about what she put in the beef patties we made over 12 years ago (because I wanted to keep the recipe as authentic as possible_. Her reply was something along the lines of, “You can cook the filling however you’d like- there’s no set guideline as to what spices to use; and if anyone says that it’s not Jamaican enough- how would they know? The flavors of beef patties vary from store-to-store in Jamaica and as long as the stuff tastes good- that’s all that matters!”
Gosh, I love that woman!
Anyway… Beef patties.
My version of these amazing meat pastries is to die for. The pastry itself is very flaky and doesn’t get soggy, even after you re-heat the pastries in the microwave as a midnight snack. Yes, that’s a big A+ in my book- if the pastry can withstand the torture of a microwave, I’m a very happy camper!
So, what’s the secret to the very flaky pastry? Fraisage! It’s a technique used to create alternating layers of butter and dough in pastry, simply by just smearing a shaggy mess of dough and butter, with the heel of your hand (I have seen people use dough scrapers and spatulas to perform this step, but I prefer the traditional method- the method that saves me from washing another dish!).
In addition to amazing flaky pastry, the filling is just as amazing and has a small kick of spice to it (it’s not that bad- I really promise!), which you will also appreciate!
So, what was the first dish that you every cooked / baked?
Jamaican Beef Patties
Makes 6 – 10
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 heaping teaspoon of fine grain sea salt
¾ cup butter (12 tablespoons or 1 ½ sticks), chilled and cubed
½ cup ice water
¼ teaspoon dried thyme or ¾ teaspoons fresh, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon dried rosemary or ½ tablespoon fresh, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons hot sauce (can use less)
½ pound ground beef
1 tablespoon vegetable, canola, or olive oil
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
¼ cup diced onion
~ ½ cup water (enough just to cover the meat)
Salt to taste
Make the Pastry Dough:
– Combine the flour, turmeric powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter.
– Using your fingertips, rub the butter and flour together. When the butter is the size of chickpeas, add the ice water just until the dough comes together.
– Drop the dough (it will be a shaggy mess with many large chunks of butter coated in flour) onto a floured work surface.
Using the palm of your hand, smear the butter and flour from one end of the pile of dough to the opposite end. Repeat this step until a structured dough forms (shouldn’t have chunks of butter showing, and it should not be a shaggy mess).
– Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate, while you make the filling (procedure follows).
Make the Filling:
– Mix thyme, chili powder, rosemary and hot sauce in a small bowl. Add to the ground beef and mix.
– Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat.
– Add bell pepper and onions.
– Cook, stirring until softened, but not browned.
– Add beef, breaking up any clumps.
– Add enough water just to cover the meat (kamran note: I used ½ cup).
– Mix in salt.
– Simmer for 24 minutes to ½ hour, until the meat is soft and the water has reduced to a sauce.
– Set meat mixture aside and cool.
Assemble the Patties:
– Preheat oven to 375ºF.
– Remove the disk of dough from the refrigerator, and divide it in half. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until there is enough space for 6 circles to be cut (each about 5 inches across). You may need to re-roll the scraps to make all 6 patties.
– Once the filling has cooled completely, have a bowl of water and a fork on hand. Place about 1 ½ tablespoons of filling on the lower half of each circle of dough. Dip a finger into the water, and moisten the edge of the dough. Fold the top half over, pulling the dough gently. Crimp the edge with a fork, and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Brush each pastry (optional) with an egg wash. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until top crust is firm and golden. Serve warm.