What is a pastelle?
It is a cornmeal roll stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables seasoned with fresh herbs and flavoured with raisins, olives and capers wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf.
Christmas, Parang and Pastelles are synonymous.
Born into a Venezuelan family, my earliest recollection of pastelles is the boiling and grinding of the corn. I remember my mother buying crocus bags of corn and putting the corn into oil drums to boil in an open fire in the back yard. Then there came the hours of grinding the corn and of course the ‘singeing’ (a process where the leaves are passed over a fire) of the banana leaves. Pastelle-making back then was a long, tedious and back breaking task.
Nowadays, with everything ready-made and readily available, even though it is still a complex, time consuming task, with a few hands on deck one can make 100 pastelles quickly.
In Trinidad and Tobago, pastelle making has become another excuse to lime [ get together]. Friends or family gather, possibly bringing their own ingredients and with parang music blasting and some beers chilling, everyone puts their hands to the wheel and like an assembly line pastelles are mass produced. At the end of the day, thousands are made and each person or family goes home with their share for the season and probably swaying a bit . . . and that’s not from the music.
Pastelle has its origins in the Spanish colonisers who came from South America in the 16th/17th century.
Thinking of trying your hand at making Pastelles? Here is a recipe.
Check this video out.