I’ve always loved cooking, must have it in my blood. My grandmother Elena… Mamá Elena, as we all call her was always known for feeding everybody that came to her house even with her extra limited budget! It was almost like magic… you arrived to her house and in a matter of minutes, while you were chatting with her she will start some kind of rice, steak with onions, beans, maybe a ham soup (my favorite by the way), fry some tostones and no matter what time of the year, she will get out of the freezer some pasteles and put them to boil!!! Every year on her grandkids birthdays we will get our favorite particular cooking treats, they ranged from tembleque (in my case), alcapurrias, arroz con dulce, among other puertorrican traditional meals. Food was always present… also in my childhood I remember my mother making pasteladas, her initiative on keeping the tradition and art of preparing pasteles. We used to gather in my mom’s kitchen, everybody wearing some kind of handkerchief around our heads to keep hairs from falling on the food… the chef’s hat of the puertorrican cook! I loved to steal the filling on a plate and hide to eat it… I had to hide because my mother was always worried that it won’t be enough… I’ve been always known for being difficult when it comes to eating, a lot of things that I didn’t like, but somehow pasteles always made my day!!!
In the past my mother has sent me already grated masa and I used to do the rest of the process, but this christmas I really wanted to try it all by myself. My father lend me a homemade grating machine and after consulting various family members about tricks and tips on the craft and I started to plan my own recipe for my very own pastelada!!! I enjoyed the process of developing my own recipe and process, but I surely missed the camaraderie, the bonding that comes out of sharing a hard labor of tradition, love and patience… definitely I will be recruiting some friends and family for my next pastelada!!!
For the benefit of people who have no idea what pasteleles are: they are a traditional christmas food made of “masa” and some meat filling, traditionally pork. The “masa” usually consist mostly of grated green plantains, green bananas, pumpking, yautía and some other root vegetables according to taste. The meat filling is traditionally pork, cooked in a stew fashion that includes chick peas, fresh made sofrito, olives, ham, hot peppers and even raisins. The masa is combined with some broth and seasoned to taste, then its poured over a banana leaf that has been heated over the fire to make it pliable. The filling is added in the middle of the mix and everything is wrapped with a parchment paper and tied with string. The pasteles are then boiled. This usually accompanies a plate filled with rice cooked with pigeon peas, roasted pork, guineítos en escabeche, morcillas and anything else that the guest had brought to the party!!!!! Here I wanted to share some photos from the process… enjoy!
starchy vegetables ready to gratemasa
masa and filling ready to wrap
ready to eat pasteles!!!