Some say that beef turnovers, or patties, are to Jamaican culture what hamburgers are to American culture. There are many recipes for beef turnovers using all types of meat and all levels of spice. This one falls in the medium-hot range, but you can easily increase or decrease the heat level by adding more or less minced chile. Jamaican beef turnovers are served throughout the day as snacks, at lunch, and at dinner. Alternative cuts of meat include ground pork, goat, lamb, even grass-fed beef or bison (you’ll need to add 2 more tablespoons of butter to the filling if using either of the latter). Or combine two or more ground meats. Beef and goat are especially tasty together.
To make appetizer-sized portions, cut the dough into 4-inch rounds and use about 1 tablespoon filling per round to yield about 24 turnovers.–Bruce Aidells
LC Naming Conventions Note
Though we tend to think Jamaican culture is just about as different from British culture as it can be, the origin of the term “patty” in reference to a turnover or small pie is, indeed, the Queen’s language. But we assure you, these lovely little savories are thoroughly New World in taste. Today, versions and interpretations of these Jamaican beef turnovers abound, both here and throughout the Caribbean, under all manner of names, from patties to pasties. Had a rendition that’s imprinted indelibly in your memory? Tell us about it in a comment below.
Jamaican Beef Turnover Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 1 H, 30 M
- Makes 6 to 8 turnovers
- For the pastry
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup lard
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for the baking sheet
- 1/3 cup cold water, plus more as needed
- 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
- For the filling
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon stemmed, seeded, and minced Scotch bonnet or habañero chile, or 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño chile, or to taste
- 1/4 cup finely chopped scallion whites
- 1/2 pound ground beef (85% lean)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup homemade beef stock, homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
- 1/4 cup finely chopped scallion greens
- Make the pastry
- 1. Combine the flour, turmeric, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives held crisscross fashion, or your fingertips, cut the lard and butter into the flour mixture until everything is crumbly. Sprinkle with the cold water and stir to make a stiff dough, adding more water 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary.
- 2. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough to an 1/8 inch thick. Try not to roll the dough any thinner, or it will be too delicate to contain the filling. Cut the dough into six to eight 6-inch circles using a plate or pan lid as a guide. Cover the stack with wax paper or a damp cloth until ready to use or place the pastry circles in a single layer on a baking sheet, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- Make the filling
- 3. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and chile until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the scallion whites and cook for 1 minute more. Add the ground beef, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, curry powder, allspice, and thyme and mix well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the bread crumbs and stock, cover, and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, 8 to 12 minutes. The filling should be moist but not soupy.
- 4. Stir in the scallion greens and season with salt and pepper to taste and more chile, if desired. Remove from the heat and let cool. (You can cover and refrigerate the filling for up to 1 day.)
- Assemble the pastries
- 5. Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C).
- 6. Lightly butter a rimmed baking sheet. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons filling on one half of each pastry circle. Moisten the edges of the dough with water and fold the dough over the meat filling, creating a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges closed with a fork. (You can place the unbaked pastries on a baking sheet, freeze until firm, transfer to a resealable plastic bag, and then toss in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, bake the still-frozen pastries, adding about 15 minutes to the cooking time.)
- 7. Transfer the pastries to the baking sheet. Lightly brush the top of each with some of the egg wash. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pastries are golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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