Jamaican Dumpling Recipe (Boiled or Fried)
Dumplings (or “dumplins” in Jamaica) are just cooked balls of dough. The Jamaicans created the first Caribbean dumplings, which were English-influenced, or so it is said. Dumplings are sometimes called Cartwheels or Jack or Johnny Cakes depending upon how they are prepared. And, while you may think dumplings have little nutritional value, think again…you cannot have a real Jamaican meal without them!
3 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder (omit if making boiled dumplings)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 cube), cut into small pieces (omit if making "Jack")
1/2 cup milk (use only 1/4 cup if making "Jack")
Optional: Substitute 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup cornmeal for 1/2 or 3/4 cup of the flour (I like my dumplings with a little cornmeal in them.)
Oil (if frying)
1. Sift flour into a medium-size mixing bowl. Add cornmeal (if using). Add salt and baking powder and combine.
2. Add butter to the flour and combine until the mixture looks like crumbs. Add milk, a little at a time, and work it into the mixture. Continue adding milk slowly and kneading until you have a smooth, rather firm, dough. You do not want dough that is too soft or too wet.
3. Tear pieces of the dough into golf-ball-sized pieces. Place them all in a bowl and let them rest for 20 minutes.
4. Take each ball and roll it between your palms to make it feel smooth. Using the heel of your palm, press the piece of dough until it is flat and round – about 2 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Put a small dent in the center of the round with one of your finger knuckles. (Proper dumplings must have a dent!)
For Boiled Dumplings, Spinners or Cartwheels
Omit the baking powder if you intend to boil your dumplings. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few drops of oil to a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Add the dumplings to the pot, uncrowded, and boil for about 15 minutes. Drain and serve.
To make Cartwheels, just make bigger balls, about tennis-ball-sized.
To make Spinners: Instead of pressing them flat, roll the pieces between your palms into the shape of a small pen.
For Fried Dumplings, Johnny Cakes or Jack
Prick each dumpling with a fork. Heat some oil in a pan over a low heat until hot. Fry dumplings, turning them over, until golden brown (this should take about five minutes). Place on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil and serve.
To make Jack, omit the butter from the recipe, make the dumplings twice the size, and use a fork to press the dumplings while they are frying.
Serve dumplings with ackee, eggs, fish, callaloo, meat and just about anything else.