on tasty airport food.

I’ve been to Jamaica twice on vacation.  I’ve great memories of my trips, but I have a fondness for the airport in Montego Bay.  After exiting customs, my travel companions and I would sit outside waiting for our resort shuttle to pull up; and there’s a bar right there, right outside in front of the porter stand.  We’d each get a Red Stripe (or two, or even three) and grab a beef or veggie patty from the warming case.  And on our way back out while waiting to board our flight home, we’d follow that same routine. After coming home from my last trip, I vowed to figure out a good patty recipe since I’m a huge fan of hand-held food.  After some tweaking and research (and asking locals, “Gee what’s that spice in there?“, and having them give me a Mona Lisa smile back and not much else other than, “Oh, scotch bonnet, curry… yeah”, plus some Googling, I think I’ve compiled  a decent recipe.

Couple of things to note:

 I use panko breadcrumbs in the filling – I know – totally not traditional – but panko are the only breadcrumbs I use, and they are lighter and sweeter than regular breadcrumbs.  Breadcrumbs of some sort are necessary for the filling; it helps it adhere all together.  I use shortening in the pie dough since I live in the South (as well as butter; old habits die hard) since that’s what my American grandmother used in her pie dough and what’s traditional around these parts.  I’m sure in Jamaica they use lard. You’re looking for a pie dough that’s flaky and yet will hold together. 

 -    If you’re used to rolling out puff pastry and regular pie dough, this curry-flavored dough will be a bit of a bitch to roll out. It won’t seem to hold together, but keep rolling while dusting with flour, and it’ll eventually come together.  I can get 6 to 7 patties out of the dough, depending on what size saucer or plate you use as your template. I can eat two and be totally satisfied. Actually, one should be sufficient but I’m such a pig that I eat two.

-  Scotch bonnet peppers are traditional and what I’d normally use, but I’ve got a bumper crop of golden cayenne peppers going on in the garden, so I’ve been using those.  Golden cayennes are ridiculously spicy, have a different flavor than Scotch bonnet, but work well here – if you like spicy food. If you are a spice wuss, use only a quarter to a half of the pepper.  

le cayenne hanging out with his buddies el jalapeno y banana.

Jamaican patties - makes approximately 6 to 8 patties

For the dough:
 4 cups flour
½ cup cold water
½ cup vegetable shortening like Crisco
½ cup butter, melted
 1 tsp salt
 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp turmeric
 1 to 2 tsps curry powder (I use Madras)

For the filling:
1lb ground turkey or chicken (you should use beef to be more traditional, but I don’t eat a lot of ground beef myself; poultry will make it lighter)
 1 medium-sized onion, minced
 4 scallions (green and white parts), minced
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, minced (use gloves for this or you’ll surely stick a finger in an eye and later regret it)
 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated on a microplane grater, or pressed through a garlic press
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
 1 cup water
 1 tsp salt
 1 tsp pepper
 1 tsp paprika
 1/2 tsp sugar
 1 tsp nutmeg
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 egg mixed with a tablespoon or two of water for egg wash

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, turmeric, curry power, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, mush in the butter and shortening with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse sand. Slowly drizzle in the water and keep mixing.

2. Roll the dough in to a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 1 hour.

In the meantime:

1. Brown the ground meat in a large skillet until no longer pink, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring as you go.  Drain, and set meat aside.

2. Using the same pan, add a tablespoon of oil and heat over medium to medium-low heat.  Add the onions and scallions and sauté until they are soft but not brown (turn down the heat if they begin to brown).

3. Add in the cooked and drained meat, thyme, garlic, hot pepper, salt, black pepper, paprika, sugar and nutmeg.  Stir and cook for a minute or two before adding some of the water, stirring as you go.  You want the mixture to be moist (ugh i hate that word, but it works here), but not totally soaked through. Add the breadcrumbs.  Cook for another minute or two, then turn off heat and set  aside.


1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Remove the pastry from the fridge, take off the plastic wrap, and cut it in half, putting one half to the side.  Roll each half in turn out on a floured surface until 1/8 inch thick.   Using an upside down saucer or small plate as a guide, cut as many circles out of the dough as you can (I usually get 6 to 7 big circles out of the whole batch).  You can always take the scraps of leftover dough, work into a ball, and re-roll out to cut more circles.  The dough can be very dry, so it may be somewhat difficult to roll out, but keep at it.

3. Take a couple of spoonfuls of the filling and put on one side of each pastry circle.

4. Using a pastry brush, brush water on the edge of each circle and fold over into a half circle.  Seal the edge of each patty by pressing the two edges together with your fingers or crimping with a fork.

5. Gently place patties on parchment-lined baking sheet.  You may need to use a bench scraper dipped in flour or large knife to ease the pastries off the work surface and onto the baking sheet. Brush patties with egg wash.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until brown.

6. Eat. Preferably with a cold Red Stripe. Pretend you’re elsewhere.

Montego Bay or bust


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