Guyanese: Pine Tarts

A friend of mine ‘returned home’ to get married in Guyana and a couple of our mutual friends joined her for the experience. For most of them, this was their first trip to Guyana; although of Caribbean descent themselves, I had to admit I was slightly nervous for them as Guyana is a very different experience to say Jamaica and Trinidad and so I was interested to hear their take on the country, especially as I hadn’t seen the country for over 10 years myself.

They all came back smiling I am pleased to say, not only for our friend whose wedding was beautiful and heart warming, but also for the love of the country. “Those Pine Tarts were so amazing!” recalled one of my friends, also the Chief Bridesmaid at the wedding. “And although I don’t eat a lot of meat, I really enjoyed the pepperpot stew”.

I was curious to hear how much Guyana had really developed since I last visited. When I was there, it felt very rural yet lively with friendly, approachable people and social events that brought out the whole community. But those Pine Tarts, yes I had to agree, are pretty good. My mother use to make these during the summer holidays once the school term was done and would sometimes pack them into our bags for summer play-scheme.

Pine tarts a very easy to make with either fresh or canned pineapple. The sweet pastry really holds the filling together and tastes just as good as the jam inside. So if you have time during the summer holidays, I would recommend setting aside an hour or two to make some of these tarts for the family. You won’t regret it.

Guyanese: Pine Tarts

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients: 

For the Pineapple Filling

425g Pineapple Chunks (or fresh pineapple chunks)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon powder

1/4 tsp ginger powder

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp Vanilla essence

For the Pastry

1/2 cup salted butter (soft)

1/2 cup of vegetable shortening

2 3/4 cups plain flour

2 tsp sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg (egg wash)

3/4 cup ice cold water

Method

The filling

1. If you are using fresh pineapple, then peel and cut the pineapple into large chunks and transfer into a food blender, pulsate for a minute until you have small lumps. You want to then measure out 2 1/2 cups of pineapple from that to use in the filling.

2. If using pineapple from a can, take the fruit and half of the juice and pulsate in the blender until you have small lumps.

3. Place the fruit into a sauce pan with the remaining juice and the spices and sugar. Simmer slowly for 30 mins under a low to medium heat or until the mixture thickens to a jam like consistency. Keep stirring regularly to avoid it burning. When ready, remove from the heat and set aside to cool down completely.

The dough

4. Place the flour, butter, salt and sugar in a bowl and mix together until it forms a crumbly texture. Then little by little, add the cold water until you can form a dough. Knead the dough to a  smooth log (about a foot long), wrap in cling film and refrigerate for between 30 minutes and 4 hours before use. When you are ready to use it, leave the dough out the fridge for about 30 minutes to get to room temperature.

The assembly

5. Cut the log into 1 inch thick rounds, flour your work surface and roll the dough out into a 6″ circle (I used a plate).

6. Place 1 1/2 tablespoon of pineapple filling into the middle of the circle and brush the edges with egg wash.

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7. Fold the corners of the dough into the middle, to form a triangle. ensure the ends are sealed, you can use a fork to do this.

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8. Brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar (optional)

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9. Bake in the oven (Gas Mark 5) for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

10. Serve hot or cold.

One Pot Series: Guyanese Metemgee

 

The One Pot Series: If you want to spend less time washing dishes and more time enjoying tasty food and company, then read on!

Coming from a family of six hungry bellies with large appetites, The One Pot was essential for our survival. I really don’t know how my parents managed without it. From Cook-up Rice to Metemgee, it just made economic sense; It settled many an argument, it brought order out of chaos, it quieted the storm. “You don’t like Cassava? Well there’s sweet potato..” The way Mum would organise the provision before my brother could stab me in the hand with his fork, his true target being the last piece of dumpling, was genius.  And then there’s the sauce…my word. My word. It can only be compared to liquid gold: the pot would be clean and gleaming when we were done.

Metemgee  is a Guyanese Creole stew of sorts made with dumplings, cassava, yam, plantains, okra and a hot peppery coconut milk sauce. It’s normally served with salt fish or crispy fried fish of your choice. The immense amount of sauce that the Metem provides means you really don’t need to prepare a separate gravy with the fish.

You can add any number of root vegetables to it: potatoes, edoes, white or yellow yam. It’s up to you. Just be sure you maintain a thick rich sauce throughout, the dumplings once added will help with that.

It’s always best to cook this dish in stages as some things cook quicker than others; the Okra and Plantain for example should be cooked last and separately as they soften quickly and you want it to keep its shape.

And finally don’t judge a book by its cover. When this dish begins to cool down, it may look like a hot mess, but the smell from the stew is so rich, you won’t be turning your nose up for too long! As it’s coconut milk the dish won’t last beyond 2 days before turning sour, so be sure to only cook want you know you will eat over the weekend!

Guyanese: Metemgee

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 Sweet Potatoes

1 whole Cassava (or 5 frozen pieces)

2 Ripe Plantain

6 Okra Fingers

2 Corn on Cob

1 Medium Onion – chopped finely

3 Garlic – crushed

3-4 Fresh Thyme sprigs or good pinch of dried Thyme

1 Whole Scotch Bonnet Pepper

2 spring onions, sliced

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp tomato paste

1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger

1 1/2 cups Coconut Milk

Dash of Maggi all-purpose liquid seasoning

1 tsp Garam Masala

1 Vegetable Stock cube

1/2 tsp Red Pepper Corns

1 1/2 cup Water

Oil (to fry)

 

For the Dumplings

2 cups of plain flour

1 pinch of salt

1 tbsp butter/ margarine

1 cup milk

 

Method:

1. Peel all the root vegetables and slice length ways into 7″ long chunks. Try not to slice them too thinly as they may disintegrate whilst cooking. Place the vegetables in a large bowl filled with cold water.

Make the dumpling by mixing all the ingredients listed under ‘dumplings’ together. Shape the dumplings as you wish and refrigerate for later.

2. Cut the ripe plantain into 3 chunks (with the skin on) and place in a separate pot of water to boil.

3. Trim the Okra ‘top and tail’ and set aside.

4. Fry the onions, garlic and spring onions in a large, deep pot for about 3 minutes before adding the tomato paste and ginger. Allow it to fry until the onions have softened.

5. Add Garam masala and stir for 1 minute before adding the coconut milk. Allow to simmer for 1 minute before adding the thyme.

6. Add the water and scotch bonnet pepper to the pot. Then place the root vegetables in the pot. Allow pot to simmer for 10 minutes before removing the pepper.

7. Add the vegetable stock cube and season further to taste.

8. In the meantime, in another pot, boil the plantain. This should take no more than 15 minutes. strain the water and allow it to cool.

9. Allow the pot to simmer until the potatoes start to soften. Then add the dumpling pieces and okra, placing them gently at the top of the stew, be careful not to stir the pot too much.

10. Season to taste.

 

Guyanese: Pepperpot

If there was ever a dish which made me immensely proud of my Guyanese heritage, it would be this one. Pepperpot, the National dish of Guyana. Simply the bitter-sweetest, warmest, stickiest pot of stew you will ever taste. It has a taste like none other, and its all down to one main ingredient: Cassareep.

Cassareep was not as accessible in the 80’s when I was growing up as it is now; and even here, only certain West Indian shops sell it. I don’t know where we found the thick black molasses mixture when I was a child, but it was cherished like liquid black gold in our home: It would sit at the back of the cupboard, in a used Pepsi Bottle silently, waiting for the 25 December. I recall it being sealed with masking tape around its mouth and neck, as if smuggled out of the country, put on a boat destined for the Motherland…only to sit at the back of someone’s cupboard for 11 1/2 months of the year.

“Cass-a-reep” I was told by my mother as she would stir the pot of generous dark meat, was invented by the Native Amerindian’s of Guyana. They would extract the juice from bitter Cassava root which is in itself poisonous to eat if not cooked properly, and then boil, and boil and boil the juice down until eventually what remained was a thick black syrup. For more information on how Cassareep is made, follow this link.

“It always tastes better the next day…” she would add smiling.  Music to my ears. Because the Amerindian’s had no refrigeration,  Cassareep’s  natural preserving properties kept the dish going for days on end (that is why pepperpot can be left on the stove, re-heated daily for days and not spoil).

Pepperpot is traditionally eaten with thick, white home-made bread and made with several types of meat. For this recipe, I limited myself to Ox-tail, but feel free to combine it with Mutton if you wish.

If you would like this recipe – just drop me an e-mail: lovelorettaskitchen@gmail.com