In theory, the idea of starting the New Year afresh with healthy options aplenty is a good one. But I've just never been much good at it. I mean, does a salad really appeal when the temperature is sub-zero?
January, for me, is perhaps the most depressing month of the year. The bright lights and glitz of Christmas have vanished without trace, everyone plods back to work and there seems to be little to look forward to. Unless you have some exciting holiday booked. Which I don't... So, I think January is a time to go easy on yourself. Save the dieting for the Spring when all seems more hopeful and cheery. The days are warmer and those lighter meals are just what the body craves. For now though, hunker down with some comfort food. Warming soups, stews and pies don't need to be swimming in fat but they deliver the satisfaction that we crave on these dreary, wintery days.
So, if you are looking for health food, I'm sorry to disappoint. Instead I bring you... The Cornish Pasty.
A few years ago, I wouldn't have imagined myself ever making such a thing. I like a Cornish Pasty as much as the next man (or woman) but it isn't really something I get particularly excited about. Enter my husband. If you asked him to describe his 'last supper', it might well include a pasty (along with roast beef, yorkshire puddings, all the trimmings, cheese galore and a syrup sponge pudding). When holidaying in Cornwall, he felt positively hard-done-by if a pasty-less day went by. He also taught me that there are pasties and pasties. Once I'd tasted a few, I bugun to take his point. There is a world of difference between a good pasty and an indifferent one. The quest for pasty perfection peaked my interest and I vowed to try and make one at home for him upon return.
Upon return from said holiday, it appeared that we'd eaten a few too many pasties and it seemed rather an indulgent treat to make at home (we were on a pre-wedding diet). I forgot all about it. Fast-forward 18 months and I was flicking through an old copy of Aga Living Magazine and came accross a very simple-sounding recipe for Cornish Pasties. The time had come to give them a whirl...
A little further research led me to another recipe in my Aga Bible book. I was then befuddled. The recipes were quite different and I was at a loss to know which to follow. One suggested skirt beef, the other rib-eye. Quite a difference, I thought. Rump would surely be more tender in the pasty but I'd always understood the pasty to be an... economical... treat for tin and copper miners. Skirt would fit better with this and certainly seems the traditional choice according to the interweb. We only discovered this after a trip to the supermarket though, so rib-eye it was!
As for the pastry, I went for the a simple recipe but the magazine suggested a pastry using half butter and half lard. I suspect this would have been better but was pretty pleased with mine. This recipe made vast pasties. A true feast. Next time, I'd make smaller ones. Otherwise, these were absolutely delicious. Not the best or most authentic perhaps, but pretty good for a first attempt!
For the pastry:
342g plain flour
226g butter, cold and cubed
1 free range egg
salt and pepper
For the filling:
250g skirt steak or rib-eye steak if you are feeling fancy (we were!)
300g potato, peeled and diced
150g swede, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp beef stock
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
3. Chop meat into small cubes and brown in a little oil. Set to one side and add onions to the pan to soften for a few minutes. Add to beef. Add the stock to the pan and scrape up all the little bits - pour over the meat and onions. Add potatoes and swede and mix to combine. Season very well with plenty of salt and pepper.
5. Brush pasties with remaining egg-wash so that the bronze nicely.
*Traditionally, the crimped edge is not eaten. Miners didn't have the opportunity to wash their hands before eating their lunch and their hands were often ingrained with poisonous arsenic - the chunky edge was held during eating and then disgarded.