Turkey, pastelles... anyone?

By Kimoy Leon Sing

Christmas is almost here and it’s time to ‘talk’ turkey. 

An absolute delight when done right, turkey meat has got a bad ‘rap’ over the years for being dry and lacking flavour says Chef Sandra White.

White is a chef at the Trinidad Hilton and mother of six children.

She said, “The secret to a succulent turkey lies in the marinade.”

“People usually grind up their seasonings and rub it on the turkey and that is fine, however, I don’t think it is evenly distributed,” she added.

Sharing some great tips for a juicy turkey, Chef White said, “Put a little olive oil in your marinade. Instead of using the grind season alone, the olive oil will help to carry the flavour through the turkey. To season the turkey I usually use garlic, onions, paprika, greens and other herbs. I know some people tend not to use paprika but it really helps to give the turkey good flavour and colour.”

She said, “A 9 -12lb turkey will normally bake for three to four hours. I usually cook by colour so after three hours, I will check and if the colour has not come in I will remove the foil and let cook for a half hour until the colour comes in. Some turkeys come with a stick in it with a red marker at the top so when the turkey is ready, the stick would pop out.”

“Bread stuffing and a cranberry sauce or mustard sauce is a great pairing for turkey. If your family is small or you are just cooking for one, you can also use turkey breast in the same way. Keep in mind the cook time will be a lot shorter,” White said.

Pastelle is another favourite around Christmas time, however, most people complain about the amount of work that is involved. White also shared her favourite recipe for pastelle lovers that is a lot easier but just as flavourful.

She said, “What I make is pastelle pie. You would use the same ingredients just as you would with pastelle but the method is a little different.”

White noted that it saves time and allows you the opportunity to prepare other dishes.


Pastelle Pie

White shared how to make pastelle pie, as follows:

1. Follow the recipe below for pastelle. 

2. Prepare cornmeal mixture the same way, however ensure the consistency is thick like porridge but smooth

3. Prepare filling the same way as stated below.

4. Grease your pan with some olive oil.

5. Add the cornmeal mixture and allow to cool.

6. Add a layer of pastelle filling and then add cornmeal mixture on top.

7. Allow to cool, cut and serve.




2 cups cornmeal

4oz margarine

3tbsp oil

2 tsp salt

2 tsp granulated sugar

6 cups boiling water

2 to 3 large banana leaves


2 lbs lean minced beef

6 red and green chilli peppers, cut into small pieces

1 clove grated garlic

3 onions, minced

2 tsp Worchestershire sauce

3 tbsp raisins

1 tbsp capers

2tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed leaves crushed or

2tbsp dried thyme

1tbsp basil

12 olives finely chopped

1 cup stock



Put corn into a mixing bowl, add chopped margarine, oil, salt and sugar.

Pour boiling water over and quickly blend, using a round-edge knife. As soon as mixture is cool enough knead with hands.

Test between fingers; mixture must be smooth not sticky.

Roll into 12 small balls. Cover with a very damp kitchen towel.



Heat oil, add garlic. When pale brown remove garlic.

Add meat and sauté until light brown.

Add minced onions, Worcestershire sauce.

Simmer on low heat for five minutes. Add herbs olives, capers, raisins, chilli peppers and simmer on low heat until meat is tender and flavour is developed.

Filling should be tender and moist. Add salt to taste if needed.



Prepare the banana leaves the day before.

Wash them, dry them and wilt over an open flame or boiling water.

Cut into squares about 12x12 inches.

Oil leaf or foil before putting on the corn.

Spread a ball of corn on the leaf, pat down. Place a square of wet muslin another oiled leaf or thin sheet of plastic over corn and roll out very thinly using a rolling pin or pastelle press.

Put a tablespoon of meat filling in the centre. Fold half the leaf over, bring in with it the corn spread.

Bring in the other half of corn to cover. Now fold leaf to make a rectangular parcel. Tie with string and steam for 45 minutes or boil for 30 minutes.

Drain and place on a flat surface. Serve immediately or store in freezer. (when pastelles are cold they remain in whatever shape they were put)


Roast Turkey

12 pounds whole turkey

¼ cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450F



Wash and dry turkey inside and out. Rub turkey lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Cut a long length of aluminum foil, enough to wrap loosely around the turkey.

Lay it across the bottom of your roasting pan with edges overlapping the sides of the pan. Place a rack on top of the foil and set the turkey breast-side up on the rack.

Bring ends of foil up around turkey and crimp together along top of turkey.

Foil should be loosely wrapped around turkey and crimped together at ends. Put turkey in oven and roast for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 375F and cook until done.

Use following chart to gauge time – 8-10 pounds: 2-2 ½ hours; 10-14 pounds 2 ½- 3 hours; 14 – 20 pounds 3 ½ 4 hours.

During roasting, the bird should be basted occasionally and turned 3 times, that is rolled onto all sides. Open foil to do this and turn turkey first on one side, then on another, then upside down. Finally, turn it right side up and remove foil for final browning.

The turkey is done when you stick a fork, knife or skewer in and clear juice (as opposed to pink) runs out. A meat thermometer inserted into the part of the bird without touching the bone will read 180F. 

Do not overcook. Remove turkey from oven and let sit 15-30 minutes before serving so that juices will be reabsorbed by the flesh.

Carve the turkey and transfer to a serving tray.

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