February 23 was Patty Day in Toronto, a day celebrating the famous Jamaican handheld snack. Not able to travel to Toronto’s Little Jamaica, in Eglinton West, or to Kensington Market to celebrate by ...enjoying way too many beef patties, I decided to make my own at home! Toronto’s Patty Day celebrates more than just the tasty bright yellow meat pies popular in Jamaica and whatever countries were lucky enough to accept Jamaican newcomers, it celebrates a special day in history. On February 23, 1985, Jamaican and Caribbean Torontonians won the Patty Wars, an ongoing battle with the government. Before that, municipally-backed federal food inspectors made an arbitrary decision that a ‘patty’ described a hamburger patty and nothing else. They cracked down on vendors selling Jamaican patties, forcing the issue with people of colour and suspiciously no where else. The community fought back and vendors entered negotiations with the government to protect the beloved food that has played an important role in Jamaican history from the very beginning. On February 23, 1985 they won and were able to keep proudly calling the delicious pastries their rightful title: the Jamaican Beef Patty. Jamaican patties are made up of a buttery and flaky pastry crust, dyed yellow with curry powder and turmeric (or egg yolks) and stuffed with a highly spiced and saucy meat mixture. You can find lots of different types of patties these days, including chicken, cheese, fish, and vegetarian. I gave mine a wild twist and used ground venison in the stuffing, which played wonderfully with the other ingredients: spices, Scotch bonnet chilies, garlic, and onions. They turned out super flaky and delicious; so much so that I couldn’t stop eating them! I served them with a colourful lime and cilantro slaw and ate them so fresh out of the oven that I had to toss them back and forth from hand to hand like a hot potato. Celebrate Jamaican food, history, and overcoming racial oppression via red tape by enjoying these delicious snacks! www.theintrepideater.comRead more
Venison Jamaican Patties
Jamaican patties are delicious handheld meat pies with a spicy filling, venison in this case, and a flaky pastry dough coloured bright yellow with curry powder and turmeric. They’ve been a staple in Jamaica since enslaved people there took the British Cornish pasty eaten by colonists and changed it to suit their own tastes. Since then they’ve been a celebrated snack for the entire country and Jamaican diaspora. Feel free to use any ground meat, or meat substitute, for the filling, but I really enjoyed the way the venison meat interacted with the spicy flavour of the patties.
For the Pastry
- 4 cup all purpose flour
- 1.5 tsp curry powder (preferably Jamaican curry powder)
- 1 tbs turmeric powder
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 1/2 tsp white sugar
- 1 cup butter, cold
- 1 cup cold water
For the Filling
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 scallions/green onions, finely chopped
- 454 g ground venison (or other ground meat)
- 3 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Scotch bonnet chili, de-seeded, de-veined, and minced
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp white sugar
- 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- For the pastry: Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the curry powder, turmeric, salt, and sugar and mix well.
- Dice the cold butter into small cubes and add them into the flour. Using a pastry blender or large fork, mash the flour into the butter and mix everything together until the consistency begins to look like rough bread crumbs. Add 3/4 cup (175mL) of the cold water and stir it in until it begins to become a dough. Keep adding water in small splashes until you have a slightly sticky mass of dough. You may need slightly more or less than a cup.
- Shape the dough into a rough rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- For the filling: Heat the oil in a skillet or frying pan. Add the onions and scallions and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent.
- Add the ground venison and cook for 5 minutes or so, breaking it up until there are no longer any chunks. Add the garlic, Scotch bonnet, salt, sugar, and spices and cook until meat is completely cooked through, another 5-10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add any more salt or chili if you feel it is necessary. You want a very flavourful filling.
- Add the breadcrumbs and stir them in. Begin adding water in small splashes until the meat mixture takes on a saucy consistency. If it becomes too soupy, cook it down a little bit. You want it to be moist and saucy, but not spill out of the meat pie when you bite it. Take it off the heat and let it cool down.
- To make the patties: Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C, gas mark 5). Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle flour on the top of the dough and onto a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to 1/8″ (3-4mm) thick, using more flour if it gets too sticky.
- Use a bowl, glass, pastry cutter, or something to cut the dough into circles. You want them at least 3-5″ (7-12cm) in diameter. Spoon out some of the cooled meat mixture into each circle, closer to one side of the circle than the other. The amount you put in depends on the size of your circles. Try not to overstuff them. Wet your finger with water and run it around the edge of the circle. Now fold one half of the circle over the meat mixture so it meets evenly with the other side of the circle, forming a half moon. Use a fork to press the edges together, creating a ruffled edge. Make sure they are fully sealed. Using the flat of your hand, very gently press down on top of the patty so that it flattens out a bit, being sure not to push so hard that filling comes out. Repeat until all of the dough circles have been filled and sealed. You may end up with extra dough. You can discard it, bake it plain, or stuff it with leftovers or something you happen to have at hand. Be creative!
- Put the patties onto a foil lined baking sheet (or two) making sure that they aren’t touching each other. Put into the oven on the middle rack for 30 minutes, spinning the tray(s) 180° halfway through cooking to maintain an even bake.
- After 30 minutes, take out the patties and let cool for as long as you can before tearing into them. Serve on their own as a snack, as a quick breakfast, or as part of a meal with salad. Enjoy!