Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Cornish Pasties

Recently I was back in the UK, and the first thing I bought as I stepped out of the airport was a Cornish pasty. My mum used to make them for us when we were little and they were such a treat! Any spare pastry would be spread with jam and popped in the oven to make tiny bonus tarts. When I went to uni in Bristol I fell in love with all the different pasty bakeries - over the years I tried all the varieties at all the little shops until I knew where to get my favourites anywhere in town. Sadly in Cambridge, the only pasty shop was a 'Cornish Pasty Co.' chain franchise, whose pasties are always a bit sad, flat, salty and missing those beautiful generous pieces of meat that make pasties such a treat.On my return to pasty-less Perth, I resolved to make my own, for the very first time in my life!

I'm a big fan of well-cooked stewing beef; I can't stand underdone chewiness. So I simmered a very plain and warming beef stew last night, then left it covered overnight. In the morning the meat had reabsorbed much of the juices and the remaining gravy had thickened into a pasty-perfect consistency. The pasty pastry was simple: 600g plain flour, 130g butter, 130g cooking margerine, and a pinch of salt, all whizzed together in a blender to make breadcrumbs, then folded together with just enough water to combine. I cut it in half, flattened each piece into rough discs, then chilled it for twenty minutes while I prepared a nice clean dry worksurface, dusting it and a rolling pin with plain flour. I also greased a couple of baking trays and found a plate of roughly the right size to serve as a guide for cutting circles of pastry. Then I carefully rolled out each disc of pastry until it was around 4mm thick, and cut out discs, stacking them on a plate ready for use. I combined all the offcut pastry together and was able to get a couple more discs out, ending up with eight 12cm discs from that quantity of pastry.

To fill the pasties, I placed a disc on the edge of a baking tray, and filled the center, lengthwise. Then I brushed the edges with beaten egg, and brought the edges up together, pressing them together with my fingers and forming that awesome ripply pattern. According to Wikipedia, you can make pasties in this upright fashion or in the crescent fashion; both forms have been practiced in Cornwall for generations. Personally I like this shape as it's the same one my mum uses, and the filling is less likely to ooze out if you mess up the pastry join! That said, make sure to pay special attention to the tips of the pasties: squash them together very well to prevent ooze and create those wonderful decadent flaky-pastry-only moments at the beginning and end of eating a pasty.

I kept filling until I ran out of pastry - I missed running out of stew by a few spoonfuls - then brushed them lightly with beaten egg and baked for 35 minutes in a preheated 200C oven. With great restraint I managed to cool them on a rack for a couple of minutes before chowing down on a couple for dinner! I'm sure they'd be great for lunch but they didn't last long in our house :) We only managed to keep another pair of pairs for dinner the next night by sealing them in a plastic box and hiding it from ourselves. Pastry is so GOOD.

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