The first time I ever had a Jamaican beef patty was about 28 years ago. I had been assigned to work a housing project in Toronto which also had a small variety (convenience) store almost on-site. When I walked into the convenience store, I was quite curious about these pastry looking things that were being warmed in an appliance that looked to me like a multi layered toaster. When I inquired about what they were, I was told they were “Beef Patties,” and finding out they were only 75 cents, I decided to try one.
Well, after that I was a regular Jamaican patty eater. I soon found out that there were generally two varieties available – spicy and mild – and I liked them both. Later, I became acquainted with a Jamaican family that were wonderful people, and I soon discovered that home made Jamaican beef patties were even better than those one could purchase ready to eat in convenience stores.
It’s been a long time since I’ve worked or even lived near Toronto so coming across these tasty ground beef mix inside a pastry snacks is rare, unless I buy them at the grocery store, where they are available in boxes of ten in the frozen food section. They are not as good as the ones I used to eat years ago, but they’re not bad and make for a quick snack. I had never thought to try making them myself until recently, when I came across a photo along with a recipe posted by Mr. Dave Leonard in a Cooking group that we are both members of, on Facebook.
As soon as I saw them, I just knew I had to give them a try! There are probably quite a few different things you can do with the filling, and it’s quite possible that some Jamaicans might not agree that these are absolutely authentic if they are used to the more spicy beef patties. But you can try your own thing although I’d recommend you stick with this recipe, or close to it, to start. It is quite delicious!
Another interesting thing about these is that when a good friend of mine from Argentina saw a photo, she referred to them as “Empanadas.” It seems that these pastry type snacks (or they could be full meals too for some) are quite common, with different ingredients being mixed in with the filling of ground beef.
I have very little experience shaping or baking pastries so mine may not have been as pretty as some others who make these regularly. But what the lacked in perfection as far aesthetics, they certainly tasted amazing.
How amazing? Well – I made ten of them today. There is some curry powder in the recipe and in the past, my eleven year old son David has usually thumbed his nose at curry dishes, so I was a bit concerned he might not like them. Not totally concerned mind you – “all the more for those that do like them!” is my motto when cooking delicious food that I like and others may not.
So out of the ten I made, how many are left? None! David ate five and I ate five. At his first bite, he was not so sure – but then he continued to eat the first patty I had offered him. Within 45 minutes later, and after “May I have another one, Dad?” he had filled his belly and exclaimed that he definitely wanted me to him more of them sometime. “Like, soon Dad!” So yes, they were that amazing.
I’m going to provide the original recipe Dave Leonard provided along with my own “modifications” in BOLD, which were slight:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon tumeric
- 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup shortening (I used lard instead of vegetable shortening)
- 1/3 cup water (I needed a bit more water. I am not sure how much more, but with the original amount of 1/3 cup, I had a dough that was too dry to do much with. This is normal – different flours can often require different amounts of liquid for hydration. I just kept adding a bit more until I had a dough that did not flake and break apart on me).
- 1 Egg, beaten ( optional – for a final egg wash – I did not do this step).
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper (I used finely ground white pepper).
- 1/2 cup beef broth (I didn’t have any beef broth on hand, so used 1/2 teaspoon of OXO Beef powder in half cup of very hot water, well mixed).
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs (I used homemade bread crumbs).
- Three cloves of garlic, minced (Not in the Dave’s recipe, but I thought it would add a nice touch).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
In a large bowl, combine flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, and pinch of salt.
Cut in 1/4 cup butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Stir in water until mixture forms a ball.
Shape dough into a log, and cut into 10 equal sections.
Roll each section into a six inch circle (approximately 1/8 inch thick).
(My notes: As mentioned above, I had to add more water.. splashing it in with the palm of my hand until I reached a consistency of dough that was not wet, but not so dry it didn’t hold together.
As well, I’ve no experience working with pastry – but I found that pressing down the sections with fingers first, and then using a rolling pin on each one worked well. It’s possible that some may also have good results simply rolling out the entire dough if they have a large enough surface, and then using a wide mouthed glass as a sort of cookie cutter to make the individual patty sections. My attempts at rolling out the sections into anything close to perfect circles was… poor. With practice though, I could likely get it better. Not that it really mattered. )
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.
Saute onion until soft and translucent.
Stir in ground beef.
Season with 1 teaspoon curry powder, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper.
Cook until beef is evenly brown, stirring constantly.
Stir in beef broth and bread crumbs.
Simmer until liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat.
(My Notes: I probably had medium ground beef and ended up with quite a bit of liquid fat after adding the ground beef and cooking it with the onion. I ended up pouring off a good deal of the fat. I probably would want to make sure I’m using extra-lean ground beef next time).
Spoon equal amounts of filling into each pastry circle.
Fold over and press edges together, making a half circle.
Use a fork to press edges, and brush the top of each patty with beaten egg.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- I’m not that great at estimating 6″ circles – some of my patty pastry sections were a bit bigger I am sure, while others were a bit smaller. Didn’t matter – you just kind of eyeball the amount of the filling you can use, and I got better at estimating with each one.
- I also ended up probably using only about 2/3 of the ground beef filling. However, I might have not filled the pastry as much as I could have and will experiment more.
- I may also have drained off too much fat – the 1/3 of the filling that was left dried pretty quickly, but it’s in the fridge and I’m sure I will find some use for it tomorrow.
- I also found that dipping the fork in water before pressing the edges of the pastry seemed to work better for me).
Other Things To Consider:
After making these with Dave’s recipe, my mind got to all sorts of things that one could do with the filling. For example – if you wanted spicier Jamaican patties, you could add some hot red chile powder or even add some diced fresh chile peppers. Green onions or scallions would also be a great consideration if you have some of them. Paprika might also add a nice touch. How about some chopped mushrooms? Dave even mentioned that there times he added left over mashed potatoes to the filling.
I’m thinking that with ground chick peas instead of the ground beef, you could muster up a wonderful vegetarian style of Jamaican patty as well – would be interesting to try and experiment with.
I imagine the recipe as Dave has provided above along with my addition of garlic might even end up with something you could freeze well, if you wanted to do more of these, all at once. Whatever the case may be, I can assure you that these are far tastier than the ones you buy in the grocery store (if that’s what you do), and will be a real hit among friends and family. They were absolutely delicious almost right out of the oven, as well as after they had cooled right off.
Let me know if you try this, your thoughts and your own modifications – and finally, a big huge thank you to Dave Leonard for providing his recipe in the first place! They are absolutely wonderful.