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Pastels - Dish from Trinidad

PhilZ Mar 9, 2006 11:06 AM

I would like to know more about pastels (a food of Trinidad)... This was SO good it was wrapped in a banana leaf and made with cornmeal and I it has ground beef, rasons, cappers in it... Does anyone know how to make this dish? I had it once and I loved it and I would like to make it...

PLEASE any help,


  1. p
    pallas810 Sep 2, 2007 08:11 AM

    I'm from Trinidad and pastelles are one of my favorite dishes. My family used to get together and make them around Christmas time. They freeze well and then they can be reheated by steaming or microwave.

    It is similar to hallacas but different in terms of the density of cornmeal. The cornmeal layer is generally thin and not thick as tamales here. The seasonings are also different since capers and olives were introduced into Trinidad from the Spanish colonialists.

    Here is a recipe from the Naparima cookbook. If you know what they look like, you should be able to follow this recipe. It is a time consuming recipe and it is best to have a few people and do the folding, filling, wrapping as an assembly line.

    2 lb boneless beef, cubed (I would use minced beef)
    1/2 c finely chopped onion
    1/2 c finely chopped chive (green onion is called chive in T'dad)
    1 tsp thyme
    1 tsp minced garlic
    hot pepper to taste (Mam' Jacques)
    1/2 tsp black pepper
    salt to taste
    1 tbsp. veg oil
    1/c c ketchup
    1 tsp/ Worcesterie sauce
    1/2 c finely chopped pimentos
    3 tbsp capers
    2 tsp stuffed olives, chopped
    1/2 c raisins
    2 c cornmeal
    3 c hot water
    2-3 tsp vegetable oil
    Banana leaves, cleaned, greased and cut in 7" or 8" squares (scalded until soft and pliable)
    String to tie up pastelles

    Season beef w. onion, chives and thyme,garlic, hot pepper, black pepper and salt
    Heat oil in skillet & cook seasoned beef until tender, cool and mince
    Return beef to skillet and add ketchup, worcestershire sauce, pimentos, capers, olives & raisins
    Cook for 3-4 mins more and adjust salt and pepper; leave to cool
    Separately, combine cornmeal, water, oil and 1 tsp salt; stir until mixture sticks together
    Take heaped tbsps of cornmeal and form balls approx 1 1/5 " in diameter)
    Place a ball of cornmeal on a piece of leaf, cover w/ a piece of plastic wrap & rolltor press to desired size approx 6" square. Remove plastic wrap.
    Place a heaped tablespoon of meat mixture along one side of cornmeal and fold leaf in half, then fold edges of leaf over to seal. Tie using string to keep leaf from unfolding.
    Place a few pastelles in stemer or colander an steam for about 20-25 mins.

    1. d
      Dev Mar 9, 2006 08:19 PM

      That sounds quite a bit like hallacas, which are traditionally served in Venezuela for Christmas. They're complicated and time consuming to make, and a big family production line is oftened used to put them together.

      I just did a little searching on google and came up with an Aruban Ayacas (must be the Papiamento spelling of Hallaca) link. Many of the ingredients are similar to the Venezuelan :

      And here's another link to Caribbean island recipes, again mentioning Aruban Ayacas:

      The island is not far from Venezuela, so it makes sense that they would share some of the same specialties, though of course Aruba has a Dutch influence that Venezuela lacks.

      Bon Nochi!

      4 Replies
      1. re: Dev
        Dev Mar 9, 2006 08:26 PM

        Forgot to add: maybe one of these links will prove to be similar to the Pastels you had in Trinidad?

        In other Caribbean countries (from Cuba to Venezula), pasteles are pastries, so have more of a flaky puff pastry consistency. And they can be filled with anything from meat (sometimes with meat and raisins) to guyaba or maracuya (passionfruit, parcha in some countries) or other fruit, like fresa (strawberry).

        But I don't know of any pasteles being cooked in banana leaves, so that's why I'm thinking they use the word in Trinidad to describe the food called hallaca.

        1. re: Dev
          PhilZ Mar 10, 2006 12:10 PM

          Thanks! This may be it?

          1. re: Dev
            pitu Mar 10, 2006 06:21 PM

            I've seen the the Dominican masa (or cassava) stuffed things that are alot like tamales in banana leaves, and they are called pasteles.

            TOTALLY intrigued that there is a Trini version....THX

            1. re: Dev
              butterfly Mar 10, 2006 07:49 PM

              Not all pasteles are made from puff pastry. For sure in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic there are pasteles that are wrapped in banana leaves. Pasteles de masa and pasteles de yuca come to mind. Also arroz apastelado. Some have picadillo stuffed in them, which is ground meat with olives, capers and raisins. Sounds like it would be really good with the cornmeal...

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