CornishPasties1

Day 13 – Cornish Pasties

Let’s start with some fighting words shall we? If I see another recipe for Cornish Pasties calling for mince, peas and carrots, I shall scream.

Authentic pasties contain none of these ingredients. You don’t make them with shortcrust pastry either.

Pasties are British regional peasant food and a world away from the mass-produced nastiness we put up with today. Nicknamed ‘Oggies’ by the celtic-speaking Cornish,  they often encased fish or rabbit mixed with root vegetables. Sometimes, jam or stewed fruit was placed at the other end, with a piece of pastry inserted in the middle cleverly separating lunch from dessert.

The story goes that Cornish women would make a round of pasties for their men’s lunch and then take them, still warm,  to the tin mines where the men would be working down below. They would call down the mine shaft, ‘Oggie, oggie, oggie!’ – the men would reply ‘Oi, oi, oi!’. In effect it was a quick call-and-response meaning, ‘Your lunch is here’, followed by, ‘Righto, send them down’.  And to think, the ubiquitous chant that accompanies Australian national teams at sporting events around the world simply signifies that dinner’s ready.

If I could, I would take you to Porthleven in Cornwall, close to the town I grew up in, and we could sit on the harbour wall and smell the pasties cooking from the bakery a hundred metres away while we watch the world go by.

Made with potatoes, swede, a little onion and chuck or skirt steak, truly great pasties are made with a rough puff pastry which is made with lots of butter and lard for enhanced flakiness.  The smell as they cook is mouth watering. They are light, delicious and moreish, not the lumpen clods that we have to endure here.

Take your time to make the pastry, take your time to make the pasties – it is a labour intensive exercise – and enjoy the results. You’ll never buy a mass-produced pasty again.

CornishPasties1

Makes 6 pasties

INGREDIENTS

Pastry

  • 550g plain flour
  • 125g butter, chilled and cubed
  • 125g lard, chilled and cubed
  • pinch of salt

Filling

  • 600g beef skirt, gravy beef or chuck steak
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 250g swede, peeled and sliced thinly*
  • 400g potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly*
  • knob of butter
  • freshly ground white pepper to season
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

*The vegetables should be sliced thinly, not cubed. Cube them if you like, but a genuine Cornish Pasty will use sliced vegetables.

METHOD

Rough Puff Pastry: Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the salt.

Add the half the butter and lard and use your fingers to work the flour into the fat until it is like rough breadcrumbs and there are still lumps of fat in the crumb mixture. It is not rubbed in as finely as shortcrust pastry.

Sprinkle cold water onto the mix, just a tablespoonful at a time, mixing it as you go until you have a stiff dough. You have to go slowly or you’ll end up with too much water in the dough, which causes a dry pastry.

Flour your worktop and knead the dough gently for a minute or two, then wrap it in clingfilm and place it in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the dough, roll into a rectangle and spread the remaining butter and lard over the bottom two thirds of the pastry. Fold the top third (without the covering of fat) of pastry over the butter, then the bottom layer of pastry over the middle to create an envelope effect. Roll the pastry again to incorporate the butter. The pastry will have large streaks of butter and lard throughout it, almost a marbling effect. There will also be air bubbles trapped. This is a good thing.

Roll up the pastry again  into thirds, cover with clingwrap and refrigerate for another 30 mins before continuing with the recipe. Pastry stored like this will still be fine for a day or two, so you can make up a batch, or cook ahead.

Pasty

Preheat oven to 200°C

Peel and finely slice your vegetables. Slice the beef into small, thin pieces.

Remove your pastry from the fridge and cut it into six pieces, rolling each one lightly in your floured hands so they form identical sized balls of dough.

Lightly flour the benchtop and roll out each dough ball so it is round and about 3-4mm thick. Using a small dinner plate, placed on the dough, cut out a circle.  Layer each of the vegetables in the centre of each round of pastry.  Place the meat layer on top of the layered potato/onion/swede. Dot with a tiny piece of butter and season with salt and pepper.

Brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash before bringing the edges of the pastry up over the filling to meet in the middle. Crimp the edges together by pressing the pastry firmly between your fingers to seal the edges together. You can also seal the edges around one edge, like  a semi-circle. There is considerable debate about which method is the best. Either will do, just make sure the edges are sealed well.

Place all pasties on a lined baking tray, brush with  egg wash and cook for 30 minutes, then turn down the oven to 190°C and cook for a further 20 minutes, until the pastry is a golden brown and the filling cooked through. The smell of cooking pasties should bring everyone into the kitchen.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before eating. Even if you wait the filling will be very hot.

COST

$8.90 for six large pasties

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10 thoughts on “Day 13 – Cornish Pasties”

  1. Hi Sandra, your post reminded me of a recent trip my husband and I made to St Ives recently. Our friends reminded us of what was a proper pasty, and so when I ordered one with chicken curry filling in it, I decided to refer to it as a curry puff. Love your recipes!
    Gcroft

  2. Sandra, yet again my husband fell a little in love with you.

    He is on a mission to get “proper pasties” back to Australia. We holiday in Moonta, SA, a fair bit, which is a part of the “Copper Coast”. It’s migrant workers all hailed from the Cornish mines. It is the only place we can get a decent pastie. Unless I start making them from your recipe…………..

    1. Cornish miners travelled all over the globe 150 years ago. I haven’t been to that part of SA but several people have told me about it, sounds very spectacular, and a little remote. Like Cornwall really.

  3. Great post Sandra, have shared you pastie history with our holiday group – the Englishman was at pains to explain the pronunciation as pastie as in puss – tee not the Australian mangle as in parse – tee.

  4. Hi Sandra, Stupid question first: where do I get lard?
    Second, an addition to the history discussion. My husband claims that the reason pasties are the shape they are is because the tin ore(cassiterite) is toxic, and of course the miners could not wash their hands before eating. So they would hold the pastie with the back of it in their hand, munch down from the front and then throw the contaminated back bit away. He further claims (!) that this is why there were so many rats down the mines. What do you think?

    1. Lard is in the supermarket fridge next to copha, beef dripping and vegetable shortening. It’s in 250g packs, the same size and shape as butter.

      There is a lot of debate about the correct way to crimp a pasty, but the accepted wisdom is that the pasties were indeed crimped at the side and held along this edge by miners with their filthy hands, to be discarded at the end of the meal. As to whether the discarded crusts attracted rats, I do not know, but it’s highly likely given there would have been both food and warmth down the mine.

  5. I come from Porthleven and now live near Noosa. My mum works in the pasty shop that you talk about. I despair when I see a Cornish pasty with a pea or (worse) a carrot in it! I’m going back to Porthleven for a visit soon and a pasty is on the top of my “to do” list.

    This site is great as I have a fussy husband and I’m still getting used to living without Tesco!

  6. Greetings pasty lovers!
    I am Cornish, born in Newquay.
    If you want a real proper Cornish Pasty in Victoria then journey to the Mornington Peninsula. I make them on Friday nights and Saturdays in my restaurant “Noel’s Gallery”.
    You will not find carrot, pumpkin, minced beef or any other sacreligious ingredient in my pasties. They have a side crimp and I make my own pastry. Come and visit Noel’s and help to keep the Cornish Pasty REAL!! :)
    Jane

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