jamaican-beef-patties-1

Jamaican Beef Patties

I was first introduced to the notion of “Jamaican Beef Patties” as a ten-year-old, while living in the Virgin Islands. Brightly-colored, impromptu roadside stands made of galvanized roofing and featuring only one or two giant kettles made from the bottoms of 55-gallon drums as the only cooking instruments, where you could buy a beef patty (inexplicably pronounced like “paté,” by the locals) for just two dollars. West Indian-style Beef Patties were deep-fried, like a donut or fritter, flaky, and filled with a saucy, spicy, utterly delicious ground beef or shredded goat filling.

Imagine my disappointment, then, when I moved to Brooklyn in my early twenties, and was confronted with the corner deli version of “Jamaican Beef Patties.” Though they shared a name, these convenience snacks had no resemblance to the beef patties of my memory. These were small, previously frozen hard yellow pucks, chalky on the teeth, and filled with no more than a spit of the gamiest, driest, lowest-quality beef. Often, they were displayed in the cooler, and would be heated to order in a pizza oven, which only seemed to make them worse. The tops would collapse in a pool of orange grease, revealing the depressing insides, that would sometimes be (rather in-authentically) filled with mozzarella cheese, in addition to the ground beef filling. Based on the beef patties I had enjoyed in the islands as a child, I knew that something had been lost in translation. Though I hadn’t been to Jamaica, and though I learned much later that the two styles of beef patty were very different, it still didn’t seem possible that these sad little pastry pucks could rise to the level of national dish. I scratched them off my list of possible lunch items, and moved on with my life.

Until, that is, I made Jamaican beef patties myself, in my own home. Suddenly, I understood what this dish must actually be like, when thoughtfully prepared in a Jamaican kitchen. Instead of little dense wads of crumbly dough, making them yourself reveals their true nature: little flaky turmeric-dyed and curry-flavored empanadas, or turnovers, filled with sweat-inducing spicy meat spiked with habanero peppers. They’re a celebration of colonialism, where Indian spices mingle with Caribbean heat and create a totally new type of cuisine. They’re cheap, filling, and stunningly delicious…and you owe it to yourself to try them, to change your whole mindset about this “Jamaican Beef Pattie” business.

Jamaican Beef Patties
Adapted from a recipe in the New York Times. Makes 12 patties.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 1/2 cups cold vegetable shortening (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 habanero chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Method:

  1. Mix flour, salt, turmeric and curry powder in a large bowl. Add chilled vegetable shortening rub together with flour using your fingertips. When shortening has been chopped into small, flour-covered balls, add 1/2 cup of ice water and mix with your hands. Keep adding ice water, several tablespoons at a time, until mixture forms a slightly sticky dough. Knead for two minutes, divide in half, wrap in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
  2. In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add scallions, onion, garlic, and habanero pepper. Cook, stirring until softened. Add paprika, allspice, and cayenne, tossing to coat vegetables. Add beef and thyme, breaking up and large pieces with a wooden spoon, and brown lightly. Add enough water to just cover meat, and simmer, uncovered, until liquid is reduced to a sauce, about 30 minutes. Remove from meat and set aside to cool.
  3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove one half of dough from refrigerator and divide it in half. Roll out one half on a lightly floured surface until large enough to cut three circles, each about 6 inches across. (Use the rim of a bowl turned upside down as a guide.) Repeat with remaining dough, setting aside the circles.
  4. Place two tablespoons of filling on lower half of one circle. Dip a finger into water and moisten the edge of the dough. Fold the top half over, pulling dough over filling and pressing edge lightly with your fingers. Crimp edge with a fork and transfer to nonstick baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Bake about 25 minutes, until top crust is firm and golden.

Comments

  1. says

    oh how delicious!!! i love beef patties, love the “pattie man” riding along on his bicycle, calling out “patteeeee! patteeee!” (which sound i first heard riding a bicycle down the Blue Mountains in Jamaica, hearing the patteeeee, which sounded like fatteeeeee, which annoyed me ~ how rude! ~ and not even all that applicable at that point in life. far more so now, alas.) never thought of making them. will do this weekend. a little bit of jamaica smack in the middle of tulsa, ok. lovely.

    • Malcolm says

      I didn’t know you had spent time in Jamaica! No word on the authenticity of these, since I only have the gross deli version to compare them to…but these were pretty good.

  2. says

    My only encounters with Jamaican beef patties have been in NY (the Bronx specifically) while I was in college. Why are they at pizzerias by the way? Strange. In any case, they’re nasty. I’ve also sampled the “Golden Crust” variety, which is better, but still kinda gross if memory serves me correct. In any case, I want one of these.

  3. says

    Awesome, awesome post. I had all but forgotten the wonderful patties I use to enjoy when my ex and I were together (she’s Haitian/Panamanian and her father would go every weekend to Jamaica, Queens to pick up a few dozen) until now. Thank you so much for this recipe–yours look absolutely fantastic and I can’t wait to try making these at home.

    • Malcolm says

      You’ve gotta try ‘em…they’re head and shoulders above anything I ever picked up in the corner deli or pizzeria.

  4. Gregory says

    Although inauthentic (sans hyphen) is a legitimate word, I believe that you actually mean to say unauthentic, which refers to a poor facsimile, whereas inauthentic refers to a fake intended to pass for an original, implying deception. This type of mistake, obviously quite minor, is nevertheless the sort committed by typically superior writers. Please forgive me; I spend so much time reading atrociously written blogs that my eyes hurt. Your pictures are spectacular.

      • Raoul says

        so FUNNY! I was thinking the same thing.

        I have not have a chance to try your recipe (although I will really soon!). I am a Haitian from nyc and have lived with Jamaicans all my life. I have tasted everything including homemade, Golden Krust, Juici Patties, Tastee Patties and the awful offering from the pizza shops. I will be able to tell you how authentic your recipe is!

  5. Robin says

    These beef patties are great…have quickly become a family favorite! I have even kicked up the heat a notch..my daughter n I love them extra spicey.
    Thanks for the recipe

  6. Jan says

    It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and these are on the menu. Our kitchen smells delicious!
    Thanks Malcolm for a great recipe!

  7. Emily says

    I’ll be making these for my sons Pirate (in the Caribbean) birthday party soon! Since I’ll have to make about 40, have you tried freezing them? I am just wondering if pre-baking or post-baking freezing would work better. They look delicious!

    ~Emily ~ Mainer forever. Even though I live “away” now, I’ll always be a Mainer Just as, unfortunately you’ll always be from away ;) LOL

    • Malcolm says

      Hi Emily! The last time I made these, I froze the extras in their raw form. Then, when I was ready to bake them, I baked them straight from frozen (without thawing first). Hope this helps!

    • Malcolm says

      I wasn’t born in Maine, but I have lived here off and on for most of my life. And my daughter was born here, so that counts for something. :)

  8. Emily says

    These are SO good! I just made my first batch and am taste testing them now:) I added a tiny bit of cinnamon even though I know it’s not authentic b/c when I tasted the meat I was craving more aromatic spices – I think I’ve never actually had a real Jamaican beef patty so you can just consider my addition completely irresponsible if you are a stickler for the rules!

    And I think I need a touch more water (I added less than the recipe to try to make a super flaky crust), I can hardly fold the darn things without major crackage. But I think if I used the right amount it would be perfect! They are super yum though!!

  9. Stacey says

    Just a pinch of advice. if you swap the shortening for half shortening half margarine, it makes the dough easier to work with, less chance of it getting tough and doesn’t compromise the flakiness. Also please a gentle reminder it’s Jamaican curry. not indian, not thai, not ect… but Jamaican curry. it should go without saying… but.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>