The Cornish Pasty
No one really knows just what the origins are of the pasty. It is, however, pretty clear and accepted by most that it came from Cornwall. The pasty was evolved from other versions to what we now know of as a real pasty in order to fill the needs of tin miners in Cornwall.
The way the story goes is that the pasty was created as a lunch for the miners who weren’t able to come up to the surface in order to eat. The miners were covered with dirt from head to toe and a lot of times arsenic, a deadly poison that is found in tin, and so the pasty is able to be held, making a small corner unfit for consumption, folded in half to be able to eat more with less waste. The miner never has to get much of the pasty dirty so they can consume more and waste less.
Being superstitious the discarded pasty was used to appease capricious spirits known as “Knockers” who lived in the mines whom, without being placated with the pasty, could lead the minders into dangerous situations. The pasty is full of energy rich material which made it ideal for people in laborious jobs such as miners and farmers. Fisherman, however, viewed the pasty as bad luck if taken out to sea.
The pasty is an incredibly dense pastry that is folded. This allowed it to stay warm for up to 10 hours. In fact the pastry was used as a sort of body warmer as miners would place it close to their bodies and it kept them warm.
Pasties contained both meat and vegetables usually and the pasty would contain its own sort of compartment which was partitioned off from within. Bakers who follow the traditional making as passed down from long closed mining towns still bake them to order with whatever filling you may like. Due to the compartmentalization of the pasty they used to have two different fillings. One side they would eat for breakfast and the other for lunch. Bakers still place the person’s initials on top of the pasty in raised pastry. This began so that other miners could distinguish their pasty from other persons. Many mines contained large ovens used to keep the pasties warm until it was time to eat. A pasty wasn’t considered “good enough” until it was feasible to be dropped down a mine shaft and survive the fall.
Throughout Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, Devon and other parts of the United Kingdom the pasty still maintains its favor with residents. The pasties of today are now made and sold in bakeries or specialty shops. Supermarkets also carry the pastry but these are mass produced and lose the taste, texture and personal touch that go into the traditional pastry.
Proving the longevity of the pasty is the fact that in recent years pasty only specialty shops have begun to open throughout the United Kingdom. They offer up the specialised handmade tradition as well as unique fillings not normally found inside a pasty. They’re gone smaller and lighter for a more on-the-move snack or fast food.
The recipes change over the years but the origination is still disputed, quite fervently, between the regions of Cornwall and Devon. The pasty was brought to areas of Great Britain by miners from Cornwall and thusly are referred to as a Cornish invention.
A traditional recipe is listed below. Enjoy.
225 gm. plain flour
115 gm. fat (mixture of lard and butter)
A pinch of salt
225 gm. steak cut into small cubes
2 or 3 large potatoes
1 piece of turnip or swede
1 onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper
1.Sift the flour with the salt, rub in the fat, and mix to a pliable consistency with some water. Leave to rest for half an hour.
2.Roll out half the pastry into a round about 5 mm. thick (quarter of an inch).
3.Peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slice. Put them on the center of the round so that they make a base.
4.The turnip should be sliced over the potato thinly, after that spread the beef on top.
5.Add a little onion, season with salt and pepper.
6.Dampen the edge of the circle of pastry with water to help seal it. Bring together the edges to make a parcel with the filling in the center.
7.There should be a neat pastry parcel. If you do get any holes, patch them with a little extra pastry. The pastry can be made neater by simple crimping the. Put the pastry on a piece of buttered paper, make a small slit on top to let the steam brush the top with a little milk, and put it on a greased baking tray.
8.It should be baked in an oven that has been preheated for 30 minutes, after that, reduce the heat and cook another 30 minutes.
9.You can make the pastry as a starter, by making it smaller. Use a saucer as a template to get the size.