Saturday, December 31, 2011

Just under the wire...

Complements of the Season to one and all.

I’m guessing that nearly everyone has been doing their do regarding Christmas and are probably feeling the after effects of some ‘overdoing’ as well. Yours truly is feeling some the latter’s after effects, but in a different way – being extremely tired from cooking on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. What really got me pooped was the usual tradition of pastelle making. Because of the different diets I have to deal with in my house, I make both meat and vegetarian ones. I used to do a soya version, but I have been crafting my lentil pastelles for a while and they have now replaced the soya ones in my household. Even though I went all out with the pastelle making this year, there still wasn’t enough to go around. Oh well…

Now that Old Year’s Day is here, I am still unable to cook as I’d like, because of sinus trouble. You see, I had planned to do the same Christmas meal that my Gran always made us on Christmas Day, which was green peas, macaroni pie, Shake n Bake chicken, roast beef, potato salad, bread stuffing, boiled plantains and her special meat sauce. (I’m still wondering when that meal is going to come, hahahaaa!)

Small thing. Today, I'm going to share how I made my lentil pastelles, which are my daughter's favourite version. As you'll see, they are not quite as complicated as they sound. Enjoy reading! :-)

One 400g pack of lentils was picked over for any stones, washed and put to soak for three hours in 6 cups of water mixed with 1 teaspoon of baking soda.

I chopped up about 5 ounces or so of pimento stuffed olives.
(Forgot to snap a separate pic of the chopped vegetables), which were 5 pimentoes, 1 small carrot, 1 stalk of celery, 1/2 an onion, fresh thyme, 2 leaves chadon beni 2 stalks chive and 2 cloves of garlic, which I just smashed and added to about a potspoonful of olive oil. I also dropped in a 'crossed' pimento - one that was crossed with a hot pepper - to flavour the oil a bit before adding the chopped up veggies.

Tumbled in the strained lentils - didn't wash them from the water they were soaking in - and stirred everything up. Next I crushed in 1 garlic onion and 1 vegetable bouillon cube and stirred in 2 cups water and let it cook (covered) for 10 minutes. I checked after 8 minutes to make sure the water didn't dry out. Added another cupful just in case, and let it go again.

Next, a packet of Maggi's Pork and Ginger seasoning went in (it's vegetarian spices, no meat whatsoever). You can also use a teaspoon of fresh or powdered ginger. Also added a tablespoonful of brown sugar, a dash of Angostura bitters and a dash of ketchup. The lentils were softening up nicely, so I let it cook a couple minutes more.

Time was up. The lentils were soft and delicious (of course I had to taste), and there was no more liquid, which is exactly what I was going for.

Took the lentils off the heat for a few minutes, then put half into my food processor and pulsed it until it looked like mince. Then it was mixed together with the other half so it would have some 'body'.

Back into the pot on a low flame, I added in the chopped olives (and a couple teaspoons of the juice), a cup of raisins that were soaking in a little warm water (strained off that liquid), and 3 heaping tablespoons of sweet pickle relish. You're not seeing capers here because no one in my family likes them, so I always do pastelles without. But if you like them, you could add in 1 to 2 tablespoons or so, according to your taste preferences.

Cornmeal time! Had my banana leaves all ready and got to the cornmeal mixing. A 500g pack of Promasa corn meal was placed into a bowl. Into 6 cups of warm water I mixed in 1/4 cup Blue Band butter, 1/4 cup Cookeen and 3 vegetable bouillon cubes. Mixed until the butter melted, then poured it into the cornmeal and mixed that until incorporated and it was firm enough to be shaped. Measured out 1/4 cupfuls and rolled them into balls; got about 22.

Out came the pastelle press and I got to flattening. Placed a ball on a banana leaf, covered it with another, then pressed it flat.

Put a couple spoonfuls of the lentil mixture onto the pressed corn meal, then folded it over. Closed the banana leaf over it and made a neat little parcel.

I know most use string to tie their pastelles, but not me. I wrap mine in foil. After that, I put some water to boil and popped them in to cook the cornmeal for 25 to 30 minutes.

Out they came, and they were looking absolutely wonderful! As you can see, I couldn't wait to taste the first one!

They say the last bite is always the sweetest.

Well, with this Old Year's presentation, I just want to say many thanks and lots of love to everyone that has either left a comment, asked for a recipe, called, emailed, Skyped me or simply shared some good vibes with me. Thank you for everything, my friends. I also want to give special thanks to my fellow food lover Cynthia Nelson for her love and support and her encouragement to keep the cookbook dream alive… speaking of which… I’ve finally finished it. Yep. All done. Over 150-plus recipes from my mom, granny and me. Thank God! And I can already feel that the next year is going to be one that will keep me extremely busy in the world of food (and of course, readying my new book for publication).

So, let's ring in 2012 with love. I always believe that if you have love in your heart, everything else will follow.

Take care of yourselves, and like I always say, doh forget to mind the pot.


  1. Hi Amateur Cook, how are you? And yes, I really do love pastelles. I only get to make them once a year at Christmas time, which is the Trinidadian tradition. Besides these I also made some beef ones and an "improvised" one from cooked rotisserie chicken; they all were a hit, hahaha!
    I really appreciate your comments and I hope you will continue to visit my blog from time to time. Take care! :-D