You can’t get find a more authentic street food in the Caribbean than Jamaican Beef Patties. All of the islands have some version of these spicy meat hand pies, and they are now quite popular in the U.S. as well.
Islanders love spicy foods. Jamaicans are also famous for their spicy jerked foods, especially pork and chicken. The prime ingredients in jerked foods are Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice (not the spice blend mix, but ground from pure allspice berries), and thyme. All of these bold flavors are present in Jamaican beef patties.
The term “jerk” is said to come from the word “charqui,” a Spanish term for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became jerky in English.
Another origin is linked to the jerking or poking of the meat with a sharp object, producing holes which were then filled with the spice mixture. Like most Caribbean islands, Jamaican foods are derivative of many different settlement cultures, including British, Dutch, French, Spanish, East Indian, West African, Portugese, and Chinese. The origins of jerk pork can be traced back to the pre-slavery days of the Cormantee hunters of West Africa through the Maroons, who were Jamaican slaves that escaped from the British during the invasion of 1655.
Please note, although Scotch bonnet peppers are also known as habaneros in some area of the US, they are not the same chile pepper. However, they may be substituted for each other. Scotch bonnet peppers range in color from yellow-green to orange to red, depending upon ripeness. I used orange and red (see photo below).
You may adjust the spicy heat factor by adjusting the amounts of curry powder and Scotch bonnet chiles up or down to suit your own tastes. I love them screaming hot!
Jamaican Beef Patties Recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup solid shortening (such as Crisco®)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 4 Tablespoons) cold margarine
1/3 cup icy cold water
2 Tablespoons margarine
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon chopped Scotch bonnet chile pepper
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup beef or chicken stock
1/4 cup water
1 egg, beaten
For the pastry:
Whisk together flour, curry powder, and salt in a large bowl. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add shortening and margarine. Pulse until mixture is crumbly. Add cold water and pulse just until a dough forms. Do not over-process.
Roll dough on a floured wooden cutting board to 1/8-inch thickness. (At this point, you may cover the dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before proceeding.) Cut circles 8 inches in diameter (use a paper template). Cover circles with plastic wrap until ready to use.
For the filling:
In a heavy skillet over medium heat, saute onion and Scotch bonnet chile peppers in margarine until softened. Add ground beef, curry powder, thyme, allspice, salt, and pepper. Saute, stirring often, until beef is browned and broken apart, about 10 minutes.
Stir breadcrumbs and beef stock into the ground beef. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed. It should not be watery, yet still remain moist. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking liners or grease pans.
Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the meat filling in the center of each pastry circle. Moisten the edges of the circles, fold in half, and seal edges with the tines of a fork. Mix remaining water with the egg. Brush the tops of the Jamaican beef patties with the egg wash.
Bake 30 to 40 minutes until golden.
Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 10 patties
Jamaican Beef Patties Recipe Photo ©2019 Peggy Filippone