Recipes of Popular Traditional Trinidad & Tobago Christmas Dishes and Drinks!

Courtesy of

Trinidad Black Cake

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1 lb butter (use margarine for pareve)
1 lb sugar
8 eggs
1 tsp lemon essence
2 tsp lime rind (zested)
2 tsp almond essence
2 tsp vanilla
1 lb all-purpose flour (use 1/2 cassava flour + 1/2 lb rice flour for gluten-free)
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

Fruit Base:

1 lb pitted prunes
1 lb raisins
1 lb currants
1 bottle cherry brandy
1 bottle rum and/or Bailey’s
2 tbsp Angostura bitters


1 lb brown sugar
1/2 cup boiling hot water

Have on Hand:

1 more bottle of rum


Three to Five Days Before:

Up to 5 days before you make the cake, chop up all the fruits for the fruit base. Place in a large bowl, pour in Angostura bitters, cherry brandy and rum (I use Bailey’s when I have extra $$$ and it really makes it extra special :) ). Leave in a cool corner, covered, to soak up the liquor. As I said 3-5 days before is the best option, 24 hours minimum if you must be ’so last-minute’!

On the Day Of:

Blend Fruit Base:

I pour the soaked fruit and juices into a blender and blend until thick and still a bit chunky (like tomato sauce)

Prepare Browning:

Burn sugar until caramelized, add hot water gradually. Mix well and leave to cool.
Please be extra careful at this stage as a ‘browning’ burn is NOT a fun thing!

Once that is done…

1. Preheat oven to 250F (no that’s not a typo)
2. Cream the butter and sugar.
3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate
4. Add lemon essence, lemon zest, almond essence and vanilla
5. Mix and sift flour, baking powder, mixed spice and nutmeg.
6. Gradually add sifted ingredients to creamed mixture
7. Mix in fruit base puree and ‘browning’
8. Pour batter into greased tins that have been doubly lined with brown paper or parchment paper
9. Bake for 3 hours
10. Once removed from the oven soak the tops with equal portions of the remaining bottle of rum.


Trinidadian Beef/Chicken Pastelles

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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.
6. Wrap in fig leaf and tie into a neat package. (you can also use foil)
7. Steam pastelles for 45 minutes until cooked.

Makes 12-15 pastelles.

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.

Ponche De Creme - Recipe by Naparima Girls High School Cookbook (Courtesy of


6 eggs
3 tins evaporated milk (15oz. low-fat)
1-1/2 tins sweetened condensed milk (14 oz ea.)
1/2 c. rum
2 teaspoons Angostura bitters
grated nutmeg
zest of one lime


1. Beat eggs with lime peel until light and fluffy

2. Add evaporated milk
3. Sweeten to taste with condensed milk.
4. Add bitters, grated nutmeg, and rum according to taste.

5. Strain
6. serve with crushed ice.

Serves 12


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5 to 6 (1-inch) slices ginger
1 cup dried sorrel petals
1 tablespoon cloves
Brown sugar syrup (1 cup water + 1 lb brown sugar boiled together)
Dark rum, optional


1. Let cut ginger sit for 2 to 3 hours. The longer it sits the stronger it becomes.
2. Boil ginger in 2 quarts of water.
3. Once water is boiling, add sorrel and cloves.
4. Boil for 30 minutes.
5. Cover tightly and steep overnight.
6. Strain and add sugar syrup and rum to taste.
7. Chill and serve.

Makes 4 servings

*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.