Monday, February 2, 2009

a night for patty

Being a big fan of all things spicy, I would have been foolish to turn down a recent opportunity to work with a family friend from Grenada. Alma, a former coworker of my mothers, heard through the grapevine that I was interested in trying my hand at Jamaican style patties. Too me, Jamaican patties are similar to flat breads, as in, most cultures have their version. The UK has its pasty, Central and South America have varying versions of empanadas, South Asia and parts of Africa have samosa's, and the list goes on. Turnovers, by any name, are pretty straight forward - cut a piece of dough, fill with various goodies, fold over and then bake or fry until golden. I'm pretty sure depending on the size and filling, these can be used as a quick snack, meal, or dessert.

I was told to round up a few basic supplies for the night; ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, flour, curry powder, turmeric, salt and a few other things. Having a stocked up kitchen, all I needed to do was head out and buy some ground beef. While I was thinking a few pounds would be good, Alma insisted I get 5 a single man, I couldn't help but shake my head. I've never bought this much ground beef for any one specific cooking adventure in my life. It made me ask myself, am I going to have patties until the end of time?

While Alma and her lovely Trini husband, were to show up at 5 o'clock, island time kicked in and I didn't hear the doorbell until 7:30. She had previously mentioned a special surprise for supper, but I couldn't wait..silly silly me. The short and sweet of patty making went like this: brown onion and garlic, add lots of curry powder (lots), remove from heat and brown meat, separate fat, combine meat/onion mixture, add water/breadcrumbs, mix fat back in(don't ask me why, as there was a lot), set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, mix up the turmeric infused dough and relax. Cut large chunks of dough, roll out thin, cut circles, place in press or hand, fill, fold over, stab with fork, and bake in oven for 20-30 minutes. Phew!

We did stop for a quick break after making the meat mixture to indulge in the special dinner, curried goat, but the night did seem to drag. I think I ended up with hundreds of patties. Literally 6 or 7 giant ziploc freezer bags full. I still have no idea what to do with them all, and I think the recipe is scaled this way so that familys can get together and all come away with a bunch. I likened it to stories of Ukranian grandmothers getting together for a day and making hundreds of perogies for their families. Needless to say it was well worth the time and effort. I heard some crazy island stories, gained some first hand experience (6 hours worth), and gained a few pounds (eating fresh, hot patties is a must) Best of all though, I got to hear stories about my mother. Alma and my mother worked at the hospital together when I was a child, so I didn't know what she knew about my mother. None of the stories she told were groundbreaking, or life changing but hearing someone talk about your mother with such passion and excitment is worth it's weight in gold. I will not only remember my mother, but this night every time I bite into a delicious, spicy, homemade Jamaican patty - every single one.

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