Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Cornish Pasties

It is the New Year. I've spent the past few weeks over-indulging on a pretty serious scale. The time has come to reign it in, eshew the slab of Christmas cake for a health-giving platter of fresh fruit, abandon the crisps and dips for a carrot baton and leave the rich, hefty dishes of the festive season behind in favour of fresh and dainty salads. Sound familiar?

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!

Recipes differed on vegetable ingredients too. Potato, swede and onion are what we both feel 'should' be in a pasty so we stuck with this. Seasoning is key too - plenty of pepper in particular, and then add some more. Ours could have had more even though I felt like I'd overdone it.

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!

Cornish Pasties
Adapted from Aga Living and Aga Bible

Makes 6 (or more smaller ones)


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

1. Make the pastry. Simply put ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it comes together in a ball. Only add a touch of water if it is very crumbly. You can also do this by hand, rubbing the butter into the flour and adding the egg to bind. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least an hour. Bring to room temperature again before rolling out.

2. If cooking on a regular oven, pre-heat to 200C. If you are using the Aga, take a moment to revel in the lack of pre-heating required!

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.

4. Roll out the pastry and, using a 20cm plate, cut out 6 circles. Put some of the filling in the centre of each circle, brush the edge with beaten egg and bring the two sides of pastry together to form a semi-circle. 'Crimp' the edges of the pasty with your fingers to make a wavy edge* and transfer to a non-stick baking tray (ideally lined with Bake-o-Glide if using the Aga).

5. Brush pasties with remaining egg-wash so that the bronze nicely.

6. Bake...

Aga users: bake on floor of roasting oven for 20 minutes and then move to bottom set of runners with cold shelf on 2nd set to avoid over-browning for about 30 mins.

Conventional cooking: bake at 200C (fan) for 20 minutes and then turn down to 160C (fan) for a further 30 minutes.

*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.


Beth (Jam and Clotted Cream) said...

From a Cornishman (well wowman) - you've done a really good job. Happy New Year

Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours said...

I am utterrly with you on January being depressing, I have postponed my healthy month until February and its promise of Spring.

Pasties are on my list! Your's look lovely.

bellini valli said...

I had my first Cornish Pastie waiting for the hydrofoil at Dover on my way to France. Thanks for the reminder as I do have some pastry in the freezer.

Chele said...

They look fab - I've never been brave enough to attempt baking my own pasties. And I am with you on the helathy eating front, I've just munched my way through a galaxy bar while reading your post lol

Antonia said...

Beth - thank you, that is high praise indeed!

Helen - Much better plan - comfort food only for January!

Val - Excellent. Was it a traditional one like this? There are so many different fillings but I think I like plain old beef and onion best.

Chele - Glad to hear it. I'm sitting here with yet another big slice of Christmas cake.

Lisa@ButteryBooks said...

We had a book club party for The Forgotten Garden and this would have been perfect to serve! I am still going to try the recipe, I love anything wrapped in a pastry.

Kate said...

Cornish pasties is favorite among people of all age groups. I’ve had one of the best pasties in Cornwell but never dared to try one myself. They are good for health and are prepared all over the world. Thanks for the images and recipe, they indeed look yummy.