Pastelles and Parang: A Plant-Based Party In Yuh Mouth!
A Trini Christmas classic veganized 2 to 3 ways for your pleasure.
|Melissa Matthews||Dec 22, 2020|
Food Confessions Ep. 27: Patience and the Plant-based Plate
In This Issue…
Happy Holidays, love!
Usually, I’d send this out on a Wednesday, but with Christmas just a few days away, I thought it best to get it to you ASAP. You’ll have time to gather your ingredients if you want these stunners to make an appearance on your holiday table. Thank me later LOL!
“This is the mistletoe jam, I like to party all night…” my daughter has been singing Luther Vandross’ Mistletoe Jam all weekend long. Although it’s not Parang or Soca Parang—my preferred Christmas genre, there is something about it that makes you “want to kiss somebody” almost as much as your family and friends will want to kiss the cook when you make any version of the Christmas classic included in this issue.
When prepared properly, the sweet, savory notes of—raisin, olives, and the “meat” of your choice packed into a perfectly portioned cornmeal shell and wrapped in a fig leaf—a Trini pastelle simply cannot be beat. The aroma of pastelles conjures joyous memories of gobbling them up three and four at a time.
First, as a child, I was always one pastelle away from eviscerating the entire batch made and sent by my aunt. As an adult, me and my partner would find ourselves locked into tense standoffs for the last pastelle—made by his mom. He insisted that pastelles were a delicacy to be savored and saved for just the right moment. Often, he’d wake to find that I’d eaten his share as well as mine—stealing the moment. I’m plant-based now, so “his” pastelles are safe and his mom has since started teaching me how to make my own. I can have them all-year round, but nothing—and, I do mean nothing—summons the sweet, sweet sound of Soca parang like the first bite of a pastelle on Christmas. So, this year, I’m excited to share a couple of new vegan filling options with you. I think it’ll take plant-based pastelles to a new level.
Pastelles are a labor of love so make sure you have an hour or three to spare and a little bit of patience.
Put on your Soca parang and let’s get this party started…
Three Plant-Based Pastelle Options
Vegan pastelles can get boring as it’s easy to fall into flavors that are regularly available. I usually make lentil pastelles which are great, but variety is the spice of life. So, this year, I’m getting adventurous!
Listen, if you’ve been subscribed for awhile, you know that I love “nut meat”—pecans, walnuts, I’m not picky. Thus, nut meat had to be on the list.
For this recipe, I went with pecans because their inherent sweetness is a bit more appealing than walnuts for this flavor profile. Furthermore, they are healthier across the board.
If you have a nut allergy, don’t worry; I’ve got you covered. You can try a simple veggie mince. If you don’t like mushrooms, black beans or lentils are good meaty swaps to add for either of these recipes OR for the veggie mince, you can omit them and add more eggplant. Either way, It’ll be just as delicious.
As I am writing this, I just came across a vegan sweet potato pastelle recipe. It’s definitely not something I’d ever thought about before, but now, I’m intrigued. So you know what that means? I’m going to try it! Check the deets below.
Join me on my second successful foray into pastelle making. My pastelle fillings were always good, but the dough has been my nemesis for awhile.
Ingredients (makes two dozen):
2-3 cups of plant-based mince
2-3 whole fig/ banana leaves or 12-15 pre-cut leaves (available on Amazon, if you can’t find them at your local market)
4 cups of cornmeal flour
6 cups of hot water
1 large container of vegan margarine
1 jar of stuffed olives
1 jar of capers
1 large bag of raisin
2.5 tsp Salt
Trini green seasoning
Soy sauce/ coconut aminos/Tamari (optional)
Sazon or all-purpose season of choice
Pepper sauce (optional)
Rolling pin and parchment paper OR a pastelle press and parchment paper.
Make your dough
In a large bowl, combine your cornmeal flour and margarine with salt.
Pro tip from my teacher: slowly add your cornmeal into your hot water not the other way around. Using this method will help you to better control the consistency of your dough because you are thickening by adding cornmeal as needed as opposed to trying to thin the dough with the hot water. It makes the process much easier and less time-consuming.
You know your dough is done when it is slightly crumbly, but still soft and easy to maneuver. Mix with your hands.
Divide your dough into 24 balls and cover with a damp cloth or paper towel to avoid them drying out.
Set aside until you’re ready to make your pastelles.
Let’s make a mince or three!
1 cup of roasted broccoli
1 cup of mushrooms
1/2 large eggplant
1 large clove of garlic (optional)
Cut your mushrooms—I use Baby Bella and Portobello because I have easy access to them; Button, Oyster or any you have readily available will work— into quarters and dice your eggplant. Blitz all of your ingredients in the food processor until you achieve the consistency of ground/minced beef. Use as instructed for the rest of the recipe.
Pecan and Mushroom Mince
1.5 cups of pecans
1 cup of mushrooms
Boil your pecans in water seasoned with paprika, garlic powder and liquid smoke until fork tender. Drain and remove from the heat. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Chop your mushrooms into quarters and then get everything into the food processor. Pulse your mixture until you achieve a ground/minced beef consistency.
Sweet Potato Mince
2 large sweet potatoes finely grated
Brown sugar + oil OR prepared browning gravy
Trini green seasoning
Keep in mind that of all of the minces, this one has the most delicate base flavor. It will have to be seasoned aggressively to elicit a familiar pastelle flavor profile. Combine your grated potato with the green seasoning, paprika, a pinch of salt and garlic powder. Unlike the other minces, you will have to prepare browning gravy before cooking this one up (see below).
Mince made, it’s time to season it
First things first, you want to chop up your olives, pimentosa nd capers into small pieces. Put your raisins to soak in warm water (I add a little cranberry juice or whiskey sometimes); it helps them to re-hydrate slightly. I prefer this texture as opposed to the normal texture of raisins—to each his/her own, do what you like.
Combine your mince with the olives, capers and raisins. I like to season these plant-based minces as I would meat. Therefore, I add a small amount of tomato ketchup and a splash of dark soy sauce along with my dried seasonings and green seasoning—incorporate well, adjusting seasonings to taste.
Fried and laid to the side
Once your filling is well seasoned, get it in a frying pan with a splash of coconut oil.
If using sweet potato mince, BEFORE you add your mince to the pan put a little oil and a large pot spoon of brown sugar into the pan. With a wooden spoon, stir gently until your sugar is a caramel-like consistency. When the sugar is frothy and very dark, add your mince and a splash of warm water. Add a pinch of sugar and adjust seasoning to taste.
For all minces, add a bit of roucou and tomato paste into your pot as you are cooking down your minces. The roucou adds a distinctly Trini flavor. The tomato paste adds a meaty umami flavor. Cook down until your mince is browned and cooked through.
Make sure your fig leaves are cut, cleaned, pliable and greased. You can pass them over an open flame to make sure they are nice and easy to work with. Our leaves were pre-cut from our vendor to about 6 x 5”. Our pastelles ended up medium-sized. For more bite-sized pastelles, cut your leaves a little smaller.
It’s Pastelle time
Now is the time you should turn up the music, pull up a good stool, and settle in. This is going to take a little while. Especially if it’s your first or second time. Make it fun. Have someone working with you that you can have a good conversation with because that’s part of the enjoyment of making this Christmas favorite.
I don’t own a pastelle press so we used a large rolling pin and parchment paper to roll out our dough onto the leaves. You are slowly flattening your dough balls into a thin cornmeal circle by gently pushing it out from the center to the sides of the leaf. You can use your oiled fingers to gently assist the dough after removing the parchment paper.
Once the cornmeal is laid out, you are going to add your filling. You don’t want to add too much or too little. Pay attention to ridges on the banana leaves, make sure that you have the leaf oriented so they are vertical. You will use them as your guide, add the filling in the center of your dough going North to South. Leave half an inch to three-quarters of an inch on each side. Then use your clean fingers to pat the filling down into a flat rectangle.
Once you’ve gotten the amount of filling you want nicely lined up in the center, fold the left side of the leaf in gently being mindful to use the back of your hand to rub the back of the leaf to coax the cornmeal to fold over. If it sticks, use the other side to help coax it down. Look at this video of Ms. Loraine showing me how to do it.
As soon as both sides are done, you can do the same for the top and bottom, making sure to gently lift up the folded top and bottom to make sure the dough is folding and sticking to itself. Also, gently reinforce the corners by rubbing the sides and using your hands to edge up the leaf in those areas.
Fold the remainder of your leaf over to cover the pastelle. Gently tug at one end to make sure it’s snug and then turn it over and gently pat it down with the pads of your fingers. Set aside.
For every two pastelles that you make, wrap them together seam to seam using foil. Repeat this process until all of your pastelles are done.
Get a large pot and colander. Fill the pot with water and put it to boil. Once the water is boiling, add the colander on top and add your foil-wrapped pastelle packets into the colander. Let them steam for 25-30 minutes. They are then ready to serve or freeze.
It’s not the easiest process, but it is certainly worth it! It was a wonderful opportunity to bond with my partner’s mom and talk about our family traditions. Use the time to love on your circle and it will fly by. Not to mention the delicious spoils of your labor. Everyone in my house and a couple of visitors LOVED my two fillings. I made 6 sweet potato and 18 pecan-mushroom pastelles. They were convinced the latter were ground beef.
Try it. You won’t regret it!
Thank you for joining me on this journey into tradition and a labor of love that I surely thought I’d never undertake…LOL. No more making the filling and hiding, I guess. In 2020, we are outchea trying new things and leaning into a few old things to ground ourselves. What are you leaning into?
If you make this recipe, please let me know how it works out for you! And, you know the deal…if you are already subscribed to RECIPE’D premiere and you know anyone who would love and cherish these recipes, give them the gift this holiday season!
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Until we cook together again, create the memories and flavors that you can lean into.
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