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Cornish pasties: the search for 'authenticity'.

Google: there it is, waiting silently and patiently in your device, like an English butler, to tell you everything you want to know. In the old days, you would ask your wise grandmother. Now, she probably gets her information from the internet as well. Example: feeling unwell? Look up your symptoms, then go to the doctor and tell him what's wrong with you. Saves time.

Then there's cooking. Everyone googles their dinner. The other night I made Cornish pasties. I had a bit of a look around online. Everyone was saying theirs was 'authentic', as if they had an aunt who had been married to a Cornish miner who liked carrying unwrapped food in his pocket to eat three hours later when he was two hundred feet underground digging up tin.

The multitude of online recipes for Cornish pasties insisted variously on skirt, chuck or rib-eye steak; swede or turnip (apparently the same thing in some places); carrot; black or white pepper; potato diced or sliced; frozen peas; thyme; rosemary; worcestershire sauce; beef stock; lard; and olive oil. One recipe prescribed 'free-range eggs' and 'grass-fed organically raised' beef. I'd like to have seen the look on the nineteenth century village butcher's face when a tin-miner's daughter demanded to know if his cows were organically raised, and did he let his chickens out of their cage.

Then I came across a recipe that had no herbs, no olive oil, no carrot, no swede or turnip, no stock, no sauce and nothing organic.

It was not on the internet, but on an ancient tea-towel; one of those tourist things people used to bring back from 'abroad' and hang on the towel rack of their 1950s Jetson's kitchen to demonstrate their cosmopolitanism to their dinner-party guests; along with the slide-show, of course. Here is the recipe:

Traditional Cornish pasty.

Peel and slice half a pound of potatoes. Shred a small onion finely. Beat the steak and cut it into very small pieces.

Roll out half a pound of shortcrust pastry and cut out four to six circles using a side plate as a template. On half of each circle of pastry place a layer of potatoes, then a layer of steak and complete with a sprinkling of onions. Season well then brush the edge of the pastry circle with beaten egg. Bring the semi-circle of pastry over the filling and seal edges by pressing gently down with youer thumb to achieve a scalloped edge. Repeat this process for the other pasties then brush them with the beaten egg. Place onto a greased baking sheeet and bake in the oven for forty minutes.

They were successful. One of the teenagers ate two in a row.

(Engineering note: while many pasty recipes call for diced potato, keeping them in slices - a seemingly insignificant detail - maintained the rigidity of the pasty when eaten, like structural beams in a house.)

Comments

  1. Never tried these, but they sound good. I'm sure back in the day people put in whatever they had to hand. Many recipes also state that pasties 'can be made ahead and frozen' but I have never been sure whether they should be frozen before or after baking.

    I also remember reading a detective novel where the head officer was fulminating about 'authentic' pasties that contained chicken curry...

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was my first attempt. Incidentally, we often make sausage rolls (sausage meat, spices, grated carrot, parsley, garlic rolled up in puff pastry) and freeze them prior to baking.

    ReplyDelete

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