Pineapple pasties: American Samoan paifala (half-moon pies)

Ash’s uncle, a regular reader, recently described our blog as a cross between Bridget Jones’s Diary and Ready Steady Cook. Miranda would like to think of herself as slightly more successful in life than Helen Fielding’s hapless heroine, but can admittedly see that there may be some resemblance between both parties’ ramblings. The Ready Steady Cook comparison came from the fact that sometimes we have to substitute ingredients due to availability and that it’s all a bit of an experiment.

To a small extent, this is true of today’s recipe, which called for crushed pineapple, a luxury that is unavailable at our local London version of a supermarket, so we’ve had to use sliced pineapple cut up small. Not the most outlandish substitution, sure – but at least we’re remaining true to type.

Today’s country is American Samoa. The official national dish of this Pacific Island is palusami, which is taro leaves baked in coconut cream. This posed two problems: 1) we don’t know where to find taro leaves, and 2) Ash’s perpetually difficult dislike of coconut. So we looked further afield and found a recipe for paifala, or half-moon pies. It’s a long time since we made a decent international dessert, and these pineapple turnovers looked nice, and that was how they became the dessert course of tonight’s roast chicken dinner.

All the recipes for paifala on the Internet are pretty much the same, but we used the one on Food.com as our starting point.

Paifala (half-moon pies)

Ingredients
For the filling:
1 cup drained finely chopped pineapple (juice reserved)
1/2 scant cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/6 cup cornflour (this works out at 2 tbsp + 2 tsp)
1/6 cup reserved pineapple juice

For the pastry:
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tbsp butter, just softened
1/2 cup coconut milk
Small pinch salt

Method
1. Combine the pineapple, sugar and milk in a saucepan and heat until simmering. Be careful not to boil or the milk will curdle. (Although if it does, don’t panic, it’s not a total disaster.)
2. Mix the cornflour with the reserved pineapple juice until smooth. Add to the saucepan and stir until the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat and let cool.
3. For the pastry, put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix until a dough forms. Divide in half and roll each half into an 8-inch circle.
4. Spread half of the filling onto half of each circle. Fold the other half over the top, stopping about a quarter inch from the edge. Fold the bottom quarter inch over the top edge, then crimp with a fork.
5. Prick a few holes in the top and bake on a tray at 190C for 30 minutes.

Assembling paifala

Folded paifala

Unbaked paifala

Baked paifala

Paifala with custard

This was supposed to be a ‘serves 2’ recipe, but as you can see from the picture, these pies are huge! There’s nothing wrong with our appetites, but we cut one in half and that was plenty for us. 95% of American Samoans are reportedly overweight, and that’s hardly surprising if this is an example of portion sizes. Having said that, as pastries go, this one was relatively healthy: there wasn’t a lot of butter, and there was no sugar at all. We’re certainly convincing ourselves that it was a virtuous dessert (serving it with custard was just the right thing to do)…

Now, please excuse us while we research dishes from Tokelau – a country we’ve never heard of before!

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