And for Mrs. P, who makes these Trinidadian goodies by hand every Christmas. Mrs. P is the mom of one of my oldest girlfriends, and their family holiday festivities are pretty legendary, partly due to an eye-popping, kilowatt-clearing, epic sparkly tree, but also for the insanely good Newfie - West Indian (mom and dad, respectively) spread that us, the lucky Invited, are always thrilled to share in.
There's always the turkey (I believe two sometimes, done on the barbeque) and stuffing, ham with an assortment of honey/spicy mustards, scalloped potatoes, freshly made white bread and the absolute, hands-down best best best bean salad ever, served along with many glasses of Mr. P's ron (rum and coke) and pina coladas. Then there's jerk pork and chicken, sometimes homemade jerk sausage, spicy cucumber salad and little unassuming jars of addictive scotch bonnet sauce that will burn your face off and make you swear like a sailor before you reach for another (tiny) spoonful. And for dessert, a generous slice of my favourite, super moist coffee cake, with its crunchy topping of cinnamon and brown sugar...
But the pastelles are special, a little different and another thing altogether. I guess it's because our family always comes over on Christmas Eve, and the Ps usually serve them on Christmas Day. If we were lucky, we'd get a sneak preview (and luckier still, a taste test) of these elusive steamed treats, with their almost tamale-like setup using cornmeal dough and spicy, highly seasoned meat filling.
We were indeed lucky to score some extra (no such thing, really, but Mrs. P sure is generous to us greedy eaters) pastelles this year, and greedy eaters though we usually are, this time we actually exercised enough willpower to save them, wrapped, frozen and waiting, until such a time as when we could properly (post-holiday, post-resolution, post-winter blahs), and pleasurably, enjoy these special homemade Trinidadian treats.
A day like today, actually.
Our frozen grab bag. Inside is a kind of cornmeal flour dough, flattened and wrapped around spicy, meaty goodness. To shape them, Mrs. P would then wrap the patty-like bundles in plastic wrap before a layer of tin foil (easier to find here than banana or fig leaves).
We were instructed to boil them for about half an hour.
And impatiently, timer done, I unwrapped mine, scalding my fingers a bit, but not enough to slow me down...
No need for sauces or fancy plating, this is perfect just as is.
The dough is tender and yielding, having soaked up some of the spicy beef flavour from the filling...