I met friends of different cultures when I went away to college, and I have them to thank for opening my tastebuds to many delightful food experiences. One good friend of mine, of Jamaican descent, introduced me to Jamaican cuisine in the most random of places: a quiet corridor adjacent to the Philadelphia subway system.
There was a Jamaican take-out place in the Gallery mall, near the 8th St. El stop. (I don’t think it’s there anymore, but if I’m wrong, please, please let me know!) We stopped there once after shopping. On that first trip, I ordered a beef patty (I think probably without coco bread) and a kola champagne. I fell in love with the rich, flakiness of the pastry, the spice, and the surprising smooth, paste-like texture of the meat filling.
I went back to that store many times, then branched out to other spots in Philly–in Center City and Southwest Philly. I went on to become familiar with many other Jamaican dishes–jerk chicken, brown stew chicken, oxtails, and curry goat–but I never forgot about the patty.
I remembered it so fondly that I attempted to re-create it at home. What I came up with is not a gastronomical doppelganger of the patty I had, but it’s a mimic I can live with. My recipe:
- 1 box puff pastry sheets (find them in the frozen food aisles, near the frozen fruit and frozen whipped cream)
- 1 pound ground meat (lean ground turkey or lean ground beef)
- Curry powder to taste (I usually use a couple tablespoons, but I encourage you to experiment)
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- Salt (optional, especially if your curry powder has salt in it already)
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
Preheat the oven according to the directions on the puff pastry box. Remove the puff pastry from the box and its paper covering; put the sheets (unfolded) side by side on a clean surface so they can thaw out.
Cook the meat through, either on the stove or in the microwave. Break it up into the smallest pieces possible.
Add the spices. Add the bread crumbs, then add enough water to make a moist mixture.
Spray a 13″ by 9″ baking pan with cooking spray (I use a Pyrex pan). Carefully unfold one of the puff pastry sheets and place in the bottom of the pan. Gently stretch it out to meet all four corners of the pan.
Add the meat mixture, then top with the second puff pastry sheet, again, gently unfolding it and gently stretching it to meet all four corners of the pan. Pinch the edges together. (The puff pastry box says you can then brush the pastry–the top layer, in our case–with a water and egg white mixture. I used to do that when I first started making the casserole, but I no longer do.)
Bake the dish in the oven until the puff pastry has browned. Let it cool, then cut into nine pieces. And enjoy!
Because this is on the heavier side, thanks to the fat content of the pastry, I usually eat it with steamed vegetables or a salad with a fat-free dressing or even just some Adobo powder sprinkled on it.