We are all to familiar with the food associated with Parang and the Christmas season. Below are some recipies we tried ourselves with the help of some experts. The results were great! We have added images of the process. Do enjoy!



Pastelles are small meat-filled polenta (cornmeal) pies that many believe were introduced by our Spanish colonisers who ruled between the late 15th and early 18th centuries. They exist in some form or another throughout Latin America and are more commonly known there as hallacas, pronounced hayacas.
The origins of pastelles are unclear but there are two definite theories about how they came into being.
One view is that Spanish colonists who settled in the region made them as a substitute for one of their favourite delicacies - empanada gallega. Empanada gallega and pastelles both have heavily spiced meaty fillings but pastelles are made with cornmeal while the empanada is more like a typical pastry as it's made with white flour.
Interestingly, just up the Caribbean archipelago in Puerto Rico, there's a delicacy similar to empanada gallega known as pastelillos.

The other theory of pastelle origin is that Spanish plantation owners in Venezuela gave their servants and slaves the leftovers from the Christmas meal.
The slaves used polenta to make a 'foo foo' type mixture they stuffed with the meat and cooked in banana leaves.
The use of bananas leaves to cook pastelles has been attributed to the African slaves as that method of cooking had been in use in Africa for centuries.

The typical pastelle is filled with beef or pork with raisins and capers, but in recent years, cooks have used vegetables, fish, chicken and even soya to satisfy a range of dietary requirements.


Pastelle making is a somewhat complex and time consuming exercise, and it’s not uncommon for people to have 'pastelle parties' to get as much help as possible.

A pastelle press that some people use to get the cornmeal mix as flat as possible before filling and folding the pastelle, , that's not necessary – a rolling pin or your hands will do quite nicely.

Pastelles go really well with chow chow or piccalilli, a condiment made from chopped vegetables and hot spices, generally mustard. (



Trinidadian Beef/Chicken Pastelles

To prepare fig leaves, steam them in a large pot of boiling water for ten minutes until they become pliable and soft. They may also be softened by waving them over an open flame. You can also use sheets of tin foil. 

Cornmeal dough and pastelle assembly


2 cups yellow cornmeal
3 cups warm water (not tepid, lukewarm or room temperature. If in doubt boil the water first and leave it to cool for 5-10 minutes)
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 tsp salt

1. In a food processor or by hand, combine cornmeal with butter and salt

2. Add water and process to make a soft, pliable dough.

3. Divide the dough into 12 balls. Cover with a damp cloth to prevent drying.

4. Place one piece of dough on a greased fig leaf and press into an eight-inch square.

5. Spoon two tablespoons of filling onto the middle of the dough and fold and seal pastelles.

onions, olives and capers...


cooked chicken breast that was minced.

6. Wrap in fig leaf and tie into a neat package. (you can also use foil)

7. Steam pastelles for 45 minutes until cooked.
8.  Open, cool, eat and enjoy!

Makes 12-15 pastelles. (We made 28 !)


We prepared the chicken separately and added the onions, raisins, caper and olives.


you could do it this way:

Chicken and beef pastelle filling

1 lb chopped beef and chicken, chicken only, or beef only
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme
2 pimento peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbs chopped celery
1/2 Congo pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup tomato sauce
4 tbs capers
3 tbs stuffed olives, sliced
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbs fresh thyme

1. Combine beef with chicken. Add salt and black pepper.
2. Add a quarter-cup chopped chives and one tablespoon thyme.
3. In a large saute pan heat olive oil.
4. Add onion and garlic. Saute until fragrant.
5. Add pimento peppers, remaining chive, pepper and thyme.
6. Add meat and cook until brown.
7. Add tomato sauce, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
8. Add raisins, capers and olives and stir to combine.
9. Cook for about five minutes more. Taste and adjust seasoning.
10. Add two tablespoons fresh thyme and stir to combine.

11. Remove from heat and cool.
12. Prepare dough as in recipe above and fill and fold pastelles as indicated.

Makes 12-15 pastelles.


 Making Sorrel drink


No Christmas in Trinidad would be complete without a cold refreshing glass of sorrel. Sorrel, made from the sepals of the sorrel flower is fruity and fragrant. The flowers are handpicked, the seed of which is covered with fine prickly hairs that eventually find their way into the pads of your fingers. When made properly sorrel drink should be thick and syrupy then just dilute it with some cold water or club soda when serving.











 Sorrel for sale in a Trinidadian market






Use the cornmeal dough mixture as in making pastelles.

Use two scoops of cooked minced chicken breast or any other meal or veggies onto the dough then seal up the empanada by folding into half and sealing the ends.

Using a empanada cutter, remove excess dough from the ends. 

Deep fry in hot oil for about 5 minutes. 

Drain properly then serve with chutney sauce, pepper sauce or chow chow.

For more information on how to make empanadas watch the video on  

*Sorrel flowers are harvested around November and December. For those not in the Caribbean they can be purchased pre-packaged from Caribbean or African stores.


Makes 4 servings

1. Cut and clean sorrel

2. Place in pot covered with 2 quarts of water.

3. Add cinnamon and cloves.
4. Boil for 30 minutes.
5. Cover tightly and steep overnight.
6. Strain and add sugar and rum to taste.

7. Chill and serve. ( Refreshing !)

2 quarts of Water
to just cover sorrel leaves

1 cup fresh or dried sorrel petals
1 tablespoon cloves

1 stick cinnamon
Brown sugar
Dark rum, optional