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Tuesday, June 6, 2023
June 6, 2023

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Jamaican beef hand pie a portable delight


Is there anything more delightful than a hand pie?

If you’re not sure, these flaky pastries — representative of a street-food staple across the Caribbean — should win you over with their sunny, island flair. Stuffed with ground beef seasoned with the traditional Jamaican aromatics of scallions, garlic, curry powder, allspice and chili, they offer just enough spice to create some heat, but not so much that you can’t taste the flavors.

The original recipe paired the beef with a sour cream pastry crust tinted yellow with turmeric, but I thought a shortening-based hand pie dough would be easier to work with. And I was right: Pulsed together in a food processor, the dough is not only super forgiving, making it easy for even a novice to roll into circles, but also sturdy enough to fold and stuff with filling. Plus, it bakes up tender and flaky.

If you like a little more fire on your lips, add another habanero or two; if you desire less, substitute a less-fiery Scotch bonnet pepper. I served the hand pies warm, with a mango dipping sauce.

Jamaican Beef Hand Pies

Makes 16 hand pies.

Adapted from “The Savory Baker” by America’s Test Kitchen

  • For filling

1 tablespoon plus 1 cup water, divided

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 pound lean ground beef

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

12 scallions, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 habanero chili, stemmed, seeded and minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¾ teaspoon curry powder

¾ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon pepper

1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces

  • For dough

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons table salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

8 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 cup vegetable stock or broth

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

½ cup fresh or frozen mango cubes, thawed

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 tablespoon finely minced red onion

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons water

Make filling: Combine 1 tablespoon water, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Add beef and mix until thoroughly combined. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add beef mixture and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until beginning to brown 5 to 7 minutes. Add scallions, garlic, habanero, thyme, curry, allspice and pepper and cook, stirring frequently until scallions are softened, about 3 minutes.

Add bread and remaining 1 cup water and stir to incorporate. Bring to boil then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and coasts beef, 8 to 10 minutes. Mash beef mixture with potato masher or fork until fine-textured and bread is fully incorporated, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl and let cool completely.

While meat cools, make dough: Process flour, salt and baking powder in food processor until combined, about 3 seconds. Add shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, 6 to 8 pulses, Add broth and beaten eggs and pulse until dough just comes together, about 5 pulses. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead until dough forms smooth ball, about 20 seconds,

Divide dough into 16 equal pieces. With your cupped hand, form each piece into smooth, tight ball. (Dough can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions, place 1 rimmed baking sheet on each, and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Working with 1 dough ball at a time, roll each dough ball on lightly floured surface into 6-inch circle. (Don’t worry if it’s not perfect.) Place a scant ¼ cup meat filling in center of dough round. Brush edges of dough with water and fold dough over filling. Press to seal, trim any ragged edges, and crimp edges with tines of fork. Pierce top of each hand pie once with fork.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over surface of each hot baking sheet, then return to oven for 2 minutes. Brush tops of hand pies with remaining 1 tablespoon oil.

Carefully place half of the hand pies on each prepared sheet and bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Transfer pies to wire rack and let cool.

Meanwhile, make mango sauce by pureeing mango, honey, vinegar, onion, lime juice and water in blender or food processor until ingredients are smooth.

Serve hand pies warm or at room temperature, with mango sauce for dipping.