Sold in subway-stop holes-in-the-wall and other such unlikely places, the Jamaican meat pie's humble address belies the powerhouse of beefy, curry goodness within. Also sold frozen in any tri-state supermarket, Jamaican meat patties are one of my favorite New York eats, now easily made kosher at home.
This post is part of the Eating New York series.Yum
Jamaica's answer to Latin American's empanadas, the Jamaican meat patty--specifically called a patty--is a culinary treasure, curried both in its crust and its filling and infused with Caribbean spices and aromatics. By the time I moved to Brooklyn, I was keeping kosher, so I can't verify my hunch, but I'm pretty sure the local subway stop with the food stall midway up the steps selling exclusively Jamaican meat patties was one of the best in the city. Luckily, it's possible to make stellar Jamaican meat patties at home. Yes, there are a number of steps involved: mixing the dough, letting it chill in the fridge, cooking the filling, filling and shaping each patty, and then baking. One batch will give you a week's worth of lunches, at least, and can also be frozen for whenever you need a taste of the Caribbean via the boroughs.
Filling for Jamaican meat patties
The beef filling inside Jamaican meat patties, as I know from the frozen ones with which my mom perpetually stocked the freezer, has a particular texture. It's sort of saucier than regular beef filling. As it turns out, it gets this way by three specific steps:
- Thoroughly crisping the meat before adding anything else to the skillet, for which I cannot recommend highly enough a simple handheld meat chopper that you can get for $5 on Amazon;
- Cooking down the browned meat in beef broth until it's almost all cooked in;
- Stirring in bread crumbs in the end!
The filling also requires a panoply of spices and seasonings, notably curry. Most are just a matter of pulling out from your spice cabinet. One that might give you trouble is Pickapeppa sauce, Jamaican's national seasoning sauce (it's technically a brand name). Pickapeppa is a fruity, complex sauce, aged in barrels, and not available with a hechsher. However, it's eminently possible to make your own Pickapeppa sauce at home. That said, you'll use just a bit of it here, and it can be substituted quite well with steak sauce (like A1), which it resembles.
Shaping the patties
One wrinkle in making proper Jamaican meat patties is that you need to cut the circles quite large, around 8" / 20 cm. For this you'll need to use a bowl or small plate as a cutting guide. You can also make them smaller, of course, like 5-6" / 15 cm, and use half the amount of filling (2 tablespoons). This recipe will make about twice as many mini patties, 15 to 16.
In those subway holes-in-the-wall, the edges of the patties are generally sealed with what look like the tines of a fork. This works well at home, although I also like the neat look of firmly pressing my fingertip over the sealed end.
Jamaican Meat Patties (meat)
For the Dough:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp curry powder
- 1 cup shortening
- ¾ cup cold water
- 1 Tbs white vinegar
- 1 egg - beaten
For the Filling:
- 1 lbs. ground beef
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion - finely chopped
- ½ red or orange bell pepper or 1 hot pepper - finely minced
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tbs curry powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp cayenne or hot paprika
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- 1 ½ Tbs Pickapeppa or steak sauce
- 1 ½ Tbs Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ¼ cups beef broth
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
Make the dough (chill for 1 hour):
- Add flour, salt, curry powder, and butter to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine.
- Whisk together the water, vinegar, and egg together in a measuring cup. Add to the food processor bowl and pulse until a ball of dough forms, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time if very sticky. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight.
Make the filling:
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and brown in, being careful to break up the meat as it cooks. When fully browned and crispy, move the meat to the perimeter of the skillet. Pour a small amount of oil in the empty center, then add the onion, pepper, and garlic. Leave to cook for 4-5 minutes, then stir to combine with the meat.
- To the filling, add the bay leaves and dry spices: curry powder, salt, onion powder, allspice, cayenne/hot paprika, and thyme. Stir to combine, then add the Pickapeppa and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well.
- Pour the broth into the skillet. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.
- Stir in the breadscrumbs and set aside to cool slightly.
Assemble the patties:
- Preheat the oven to 375F before this step.
- Flour your work surface--use a silicone mat to prevent staining the countertop. Roll the dough out thinly, about to ⅛" (it should be supple and stretchy). You can either form it into balls, flatten, and roll, or cut out rounds using a medium-sized bowl or small plate (about 8" / 20 cm).
- Place ¼ cup beef filling in the middle of the cut-out circle.
- Fold the dough in half, making a half-moon shape. Press the edges together and seal with the tines of a fork or by pressing with a fingertip.
- Place the shaped patties on a lined sheet pan and bake until light golden on top, about 30 minutes.