Summer is upon us in Britain! Which means I’m finally getting vitamin D and not just in oral supplement form. My skin smells coconut-y of sunscreen again and I have real reason for wearing sunhats. Most importantly, I’m spending whole weekends picnicking in the park with my family.
I’ll never forget the first picnic I had after moving from Los Angeles to London. Storm clouds had followed me for months. Then suddenly, the sun emerged and melted away my misery. My husband suggested a picnic in Victoria Park. I was giddy at the prospect. We made sandwiches, packed fruit, a bottle of Bandol rosé, and remembered money for strawberry Mivvis.
I remember lying on a blanket making daisy chains and listening to the ice cream truck’s bells blend with those of the bicycles. Henry read a book and stroked my hair. The whole park smelled of lilacs. Children chased each other on scooters and all the dogs were off leash and beautifully behaved like they had been to finishing school. Everyone was unpacking picnics and life felt like a Kinks’ song. Finally, there by Regent’s Canal, I saw England’s charms and for the first time thought Britain felt like home.
A passion for picnics was ignited. I learned to make coronation chicken and shooter’s sandwiches per Elizabeth David’s instructions. I filled cupboards with homemade chutney, piccalilli, and jam. Pastry dough which has always been a staple in my fridge became even more important. If the sun shines tomorrow, do I have pâte brisée for quiche? Or pastry for Jamaican patties?
Jamaican patties are among my favorite picnic foods. When the British went to Jamaica, they brought Cornish pasties with them. Soon the Jamaicans made them their own. Small but full of flavour, these spicy meat filled pastry pockets are as delicious as they are easy to eat. When my aunt in Iowa first saw them, she said they reminded her of the empanadas my uncle’s Argentinean family make. I told her that was exactly right. Pasties, patties, empanadas–they are all friends.
Below is my recipe. It makes eight patties. I hope you like them.
Also, if you’re in need of a good summer hat . . . allow me to recommend Hood London. They are absolutely my favorite milliners around.
Ingredients for the pastry:
4 cups plain flour
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp curry powder (I use medium madras)
3 tbsp + 1 tsp turmeric
8 oz vegetable shortening + 4 oz butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/2 cup ice water
*A quick word on dough: Cold ingredients make better pastry. Which is why I’ve learned to keep flour in the freezer and fat in the very back of the fridge.
Whisk all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the fat in with your fingertips. Work quickly to avoid melting. Mix until you get a coarse meal. Pour in the ice water and continue kneading the mixture in the bowl. If you think your mixture requires more flour or water, add some at your discretion but only a tablespoon at a time. Form the dough into a ball. Leave in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
Ingredients for the beef filling:
1 lb. ground beef (approximately .454 kg), I use 15% fat
1 medium onion
1 large bunch of scallions
5 garlic cloves, minced
minced scotch bonnet pepper (I use 1/2 of one. Some people use up to 2 or 3 whole. Taste it and decide. It’s not my place to tell you what you can handle.)
3 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 1/2 tbsp hot smoked paprika
1 heaping tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp + 1 tsp tomato paste
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tbsp your favorite hot sauce
juice of 1/2 lime
salt to taste
Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large pot. Add the onions, garlic, and scotch bonnet. Once they soften, add the paprika, thyme, curry powder, and tomato paste. Stir a minute before adding the beef. When the beef has browned, stir in the hot sauce and stock. Turn down the heat and continue cooking until the liquid becomes thick. Season with salt to taste. At the last minute, stir in the lime juice. Allow the filling to cool before assembling your patties.
For the patties:
Preheat the oven to 425F/220C/Gas7.
Remove the pastry dough from the fridge. Cut the dough into 8 pieces. On a floured surface, roll out 1 piece until it’s about 6″ in diameter. To cut out a round, I use a bowl. Turn the bowl upside down. Trace it with a knife. Cut away the extra dough.
Place approximately 3 tablespoons of filling on one side of the round.
Brush a bit of egg wash around one half. Seal the patty. Make sure to really crimp the edges shut so none of the mixture escapes when cooking. I like to use a fork to do this. Brush lightly with egg and place on a sheet of baking paper on a tray.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and crispy. Serve with your favorite hot sauce.