Here’s how I came about this dorado fish recipe. I am standing in the photo below next to Ronald “Fish” as he appears in my contacts list. He hasn’t got a shop per se, but a piece of the side of the road (no pavement) […]
This recipe is really from Anna Jones, but I’ve done my usual, which is to simplify and Sun Temple-ize. My friend Emma made it recently for her reading group dinner and I was intrigued, particularly by the butter bean topping, so I checked it out. […]
One of the best things about Christmas in St Lucia is celebrating by making delicious Pastelles. This West Indian tradition is treated as a family day and as Christmas approaches I remember just how much I love it.
As festivities are drawing in closer and a few of you from the UK were asking about Christmas in St Lucia, I wanted to share a video of us making them.
Two years have passed since this the below was posted. So much has happened in that time as I’m sure it has in your lives too. Good and ‘bad’, side by side. Kind of like a fruit salad where both the sweet and soft fruits are needed, alongside the tart and citrus-y ones to give a whole experience in the mouth. The recipe is included below from the original post.
I wish you joy my friends, and peace at this special time of year..
[23rd Dec 2014]
Happy Christmas my lovely Sun Templers!! My family and I wish you joy and prosperity, a full tummy and love in your heart.
This is my 100th recipe for Sun Temple and would you believe I didn’t plan for it to coincide with Christmas? How cool and serendipitous is that? So we decided to shoot a small behind the scenes video of us preparing our delicious pastelles – which you can view by clicking here.
Christmas has always been special to me. Although the real meaning of Christmas moves me most now, I never stopped feeling that childhood excitement about Santa coming and so I have continued many of the traditions. In fact Kirsty asked me a few days ago when we would be making the huge mince pie for Santa, and did we have a carrot for the reindeer. This is always left out with some ceremony on Christmas eve, near the tree, with a Piton beer for the quenching of thirst and the satisfying of hunger for the weary Father Christmas and his team. When we moved back to St. Lucia, the drink changed from a glass of milk to the locally brewed Piton beer. Mark and I would leave “evidence” that Santa had been and the girls would discuss it eagerly on Christmas morning.
My mother is from Trinidad and comes from a huge family, hence some of my trinidad recipes. I have 48 first cousins!! Happily I have met them all and we see each other whenever possible. A Trinidadian tradition, which had its roots in Venezuela, which is only a few miles away, is making Pastelles at Christmas time.
Pastelles are patties made from heavily seasoned meat wrapped in a corn pancake and steamed in banana leaves. The many hundreds usually made, are frozen, and carefully meted out by the matriarch through the year.
What is so lovely about them, is that they are created as part of a family day. A production line is set up and the little parcels are assembled, from the youngest to the oldest family member having a “job.” I have to say that the process is a whole lot easier now than it used to be. When we were children, from the cutting of the onions and garlic to the steaming of the actual pastelles was performed all in 1 day. Now, I prepare the meat and cook it the day before and we use aluminium foil to wrap the last layer where before we used a second layer of banana leaf, tied with string, like a parcel.
The assembly line pictured above consists of: the corn cookers (who had to be in the kitchen), followed by the corn ball makers, followed by the corn squishers, then the meat fillers and the folders in foil.
The Pastelles Recipe : Makes approx 200 pastelles
4.5 kg (10lbs) ground beef
3.2 kg (7lbs) ground pork
Lots of chopped onion (approx 10)
Lots of minced garlic (2 full heads)
Sweet peppers (2 green, 2 red)
Seasoning peppers (approx 12)
Ti l’Onion (salad onions) approx 12 large stalks
Parsley (2 lg bunches)
Thyme (approx 1 cup chopped)
Tomato paste (4, 170g/6oz cans)
Capers (1.5, 454g/16oz jars)
Olives (1 lg jar 450g)
Local Celery (approx 2 cups chopped)
salt to taste
Chop all the ingredients for the pastelles recipe except the raisins, olives and capers. Then add everything now to the meat and allow the flavours to develop for 3 to 4 hours or even overnight. I have a huge saucepan which I use for this purpose. Many years ago there was a sale of cookware at one of my favourite shops in London and my mother was with me. I selected this huge pot which my mother said I would never use because it was so big. She was basically right, but at least it comes into its own once a year.
The next day, cook the meat, covered, in a 180ºC (350ºF) oven for 3 hours stirring from time to time to make sure nothing is sticking and that all the flavours are mixing well.
On the day of assembly, the first job is to prepare the corn. Before you do this however, the production line should be established as once the corn is ready, it cannot wait.
320g (2 c) Promasa corn meal
750 ml boiling water
1 veg stock cube
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
corn oil for greasing the banana leaves
Mix the Promasa slowly into 2.5 cups boiling water which has had ½ stock cube and the fat dissolved into it. Shape immediately into 60g balls and keep covered with a wet towel until used. I have tried using other brands of cornmeal and simply cannot achieve the correct consistency. Trouble is I don’t experiment on a non pastelle day, so I believe there must be an equally suitable cornmeal out there with pastelle making status built in.
A very important feature of this pastelles recipe is the flavour derived from their steaming in banana leaves. In Trinidad you can buy these leaves ready prepared. In St. Lucia you cannot and what this entails is, after harvesting the leaves, they must be passed over a flame or a heat source to “quail” or wilt them so that they are pliable in the process of assembly. A small piece is all that is really required to impart the flavour but because bananas are plentiful here, in fact a significant contributor to the GDP, that’s not an issue. The leaves must be oiled before squishing the corn or there will be mayhem. The tool below is something easily obtainable in Trinidad but we had to construct our own. Basically its 2 flat plates on a hinge which are pressed together with the attached lever.
So, the process after all that is: the ball of corn is squished between 2 banana leaves. The bottom leaf holding the now “pancake” of corn is placed on a piece of foil, a large spoonful of meat added and then it is folded to protect the pattie, which will be steamed later. When you are ready to eat a pastelle or two, all that is required (because the corn and the meat are both already cooked) is to steam them for about 20 minutes so that they are heated right through and to impart the flavour of the banana.
A careful count is kept of the number made which are then divided up between the various families attending. We always eat the freshly steamed pastelles for lunch that day with homemade mango chutney. Some people like a bit of pepper sauce as well. The photo below only shows glasses of water, but through the day we drink sorrel and ponche crema (a milky rum punch from Trinidad) both very traditional Christmas beverages.
Pastelles are the perfect food to have in the freezer. Many people eat them for breakfast, but we tend to have them after a day at the beach when everyone is hungry but no one wants to cook. The flavour is full and goes well with a salad.
Here’s the behind the scenes video of us preparing the delicious Pastelles – we hope you enjoy it!
My granny came to St. Lucia from St. Vincent around the turn of the last century to be governess to the governor’s children. I’ve told you this before, but what I neglected to mention was that the Nairn (paternal grandmother’s Scottish family) family home was […]
Many years ago, when the girls were little, we used to go on holiday once a year with my in laws to various places in Europe for one of the half term holidays. They had a time share of sorts. One time we were waiting on our ferry in Calais, or it was delayed, I can’t remember, but we had to find somewhere for lunch. We decided upon a particular restaurant and on the menu were “Accra.” Well you know I had to order them to try and to see if they were what I know as accra. Would you believe they were?! The exact same shape and size and flavour. You see, there’s another example of our colonial history in these islands. Its obviously a dish we appropriated from the French.
My sister Danielle and I were reminiscing the other day about Joey who came to work for my mother at age 14 and looked after us “ti manmays”…(little children). Her mother used to have a stall at the yearly “assou square” which is a celebration here in St. Lucia on Jan 1st and 2nd where stalls of all sorts of food and drink are set up for party purposes. It used to be set up around the town square before it grew too big for the centre of town and was moved to a more spacious location. The skill at assou square was to locate the best accra, and often it was Joey’s mum’s stall. Not too hot, not too much oil, not too much batter. Just right.
I love accra, but didn’t make it or eat it since then really in the belief that it just wasn’t good enough for my temple. Some really aren’t. They’re mostly batter and oozing oil, but these little babies would make Joey’s mum proud.
Makes enough Salt Fish Cakes for 4 people as a main, 6 as a snack
300g (1.5 c) salted fish, rehydrated and salt removed
3 flat leaf thyme leaves finely chopped
1 green chilli finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
1 red sweet pepper finely chopped
3 seasoning peppers finely chopped
3 cloves garlic pressed
2 tsp baking powder
100g (1 c) coconut flour
100g (1 c) wholegrain spelt flour
500ml water (more if needed)
coconut oil for frying
Salt fish (lanmowi in Kweyol) used to be “poor man’s food.” It isn’t anymore. It comes heavily salted and dried out for the preserving, so you need to soak it and change the water 3 or 4 times to properly rehydrate it and to remove the salt. I’m able to buy the skinned and deboned version here in St. Lucia. If you aren’t as lucky, then you also need to render the salt fish “meat only.”
I used my food processor to bring all the ingredients together, but you could do this by hand. I have been a bit vague with the amount of water, because this is something you will have to work out once you start mixing. You just need to be able to achieve a batter which you can drop off a spoon into your hot oil. Fry these babies until golden brown turning once.
I was having lunch with my friend Mae yesterday and she was asking where my inspiration for the recipes I cook comes from. I said it usually had to do with what was fresh and in season, or what I had lots of in the […]
We all have Kirsty to thank for this deliciousness. She discovered a manky little jar of store bought tapenade that must have been in the fridge since before Methuselah was a boy, and started using it as a spread. First, I’m ashamed to admit this (botulism springs to mind) but second, I realised tapenade couldn’t be a difficult thing to make, so I did. The result is a spread which is fresh tasting at the same time as being strongly redolent of Provençal cooking and something a little exotic. Its name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas. Traditionally tapenade is made from small black olives grown in Provence, but frankly the type of black olives available here in St. Lucia, or the more affordable ones in London taste yucky. They taste sludgy and not fresh at all. Using the green was definitely an epiphany for me and I’m sure you will agree. The great thing is green olives are easy to find in most supermarkets on either side of the “pond”
400g green olives (pitted)
2 garlic cloves pressed
6 anchovy fillets
2 tbsp capers (I used slightly larger than nonpareille variety)
2 tbsp chopped thyme
zest and juice 1 lime/lemon
I wish I had £1 or $1 for every time I write this but……”blitz everything together in the food processor until smooth.” I only made this tapenade a few days ago and already we have had it on “definitely NOT bread;” on crackers for a quick snack; and as a base on an aubergine tower with mozzarella and tomato. The cost of making this at home is substantially less expensive than buying the equivalent in a jar.
Other ways of using this tapenade could be: tucking it under the skin of a chicken pre-roasting; spreading on toasted focaccia and topping with tomatoes as in a bruschetta; thinning out with a bit of olive oil and lime/lemon juice and you’ve got a vinaigrette; toss tapenade with boiled new potatoes, blanched green beans, and shallots. Chill. Add a few tomato slices, hard-boiled egg, and tuna for a Niçoise-esque potato salad; smear over grilled fish; mix into hummus; spoon it straight from the jar into the mouth…..???