As with other recipes from Trinidad, this one blends cooking techniques, ingredients and flavors from around the world. Interesting, but not easy.

Trini Pastelles
Recipe type: Beef
Serves: 30
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil; plus
  • 1/3 Cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic; grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper or 2 chopped Serrano chiles
  • 1 onion; minced
  • 1/4 Cup chopped chives
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme; leaves only
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 4 tomatoes; diced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Cup sliced pimento stuffed olives
  • 1 bottle capers (4 ounces)
  • 1/2 Cup raisins
  • 4 1/2 Cups instant corn masa
  • 5 Cups lukewarm water (to 6 Cups)
  • 3 pounds banana leaves
  • cotton string or foil
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, cayenne, onion, chives and thyme. Cook until onion is transparent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add beef, pork, tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat to meld flavors, about 30 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce. Simmer until sauce is almost cooked away and meat is thoroughly cooked, 15 minutes. Stir in olives, capers and raisins. Let cool 30 minutes.
  2. Pour corn masa into large bowl and make hole in center. Add 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) and 5 Cups lukewarm water to hole. Mix quickly to make smooth - not sticky - dough. A little more water may be needed. Set masa aside.
  3. Wipe banana leaves clean and dry with paper towels. Cut in 12-inch squares. Rub leaves with 1/3 Cup oil.
  4. Pinch off pieces of masa mixture and form into balls slightly larger than golf balls. Place ball in center of 1 leaf. Place another leaf on top and and press between two cutting boards or roll out to 6-inch circle. Flattened corn mixture should be as thin as possible.
  5. Put 2 tablespoons meat filling in center. Fold 1 end of flattened corn mixture over to cover meat filling and to make a semicircle. Make sure edges are sealed by pressing together. Now fold banana leaf to make a parcel (as if wrapping a present). Tie with cotton string. If foil is used instead of banana leaves, tightly fold over the ends.
  6. Place "parcels" in steamer basket and steam over simmering water until masa is cooked but still tender and moist, about 40 minutes. Serve in banana leaves. Unwrap and eat warm.
This recipe yields 2 1/2 dozen.

Each pastelle: 202 calories; 536 mg sodium; 25 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 17 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 1.80 grams fiber.

Comments: To make this a vegetarian recipe, substitute 3 pounds vegetarian breakfast patties for the beef and pork. You can find instant corn masa at Latino markets and many supermarkets. Packages of banana leaves are available at Asian and Central-American markets.

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