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Cornish Pasties

The Cornish pasty – a half moon pastry case, filled with meat and vegetables – has been a staple Cornish food for over two centuries. It is now popular throughout England, and is frequently offered at bakery food outlets as it is easily portable and can be eaten without plate or cutlery. George Osborne’s decision to tax hot pasties created an outcry in England; it was a decision that would hit Cornwall, where the pasty is a cornerstone of the economy, particularly hard.

Historically the Cornish pasty had a number of advantages that made it an ideal food for workers – it became increasingly popular with men who worked in the mines:

• The ingredients are cheap – pastry, mince/chunks of beef, potatoes, onion, swede, pepper for seasoning and milk or egg to glaze the pastry case. The proportion of meat to vegetables can be varied according to budget, but traditionally the pasty should be at least 12.5% beef.

• The pasty is easy to carry - the curved edge is crimped, giving it a handle that can be used for carrying and for holding whilst eating the pasty.

• The contents are protected by the pastry case, meaning that the filling stays warm for some time. However, those taking the pasty as an early form of packed lunch would normally eat it cold.

• The pasty contains hearty, filling foods which provide energy and sustenance for those working long hours.

Whilst in modern times we can buy pastry off the shelf, part of the art of Cornish pasty making is creating your own pastry. In the book English Food Jane Grigson recommends using lard because lard gives the right flavour and texture to the crust. The kneaded pastry should be left for about an hour to rest in a cool/cold place - if putting it in the fridge cover with cling film. The pasty filling can be made whilst the dough is resting – easy to do, simply cut the remaining ingredients into small, even sized chunks and add pepper to taste. Once the pastry has rested it needs to be divided into balls and rolled out into circles – the size generally recommended is that of a dinner plate. Place the uncooked filling on one half of each circle, cover with the other half and crimp the rounded edge of the pasty to secure the filling. Glaze with egg or milk and bake in the oven – you will know the pasties are ready because they will be a wonderful golden brown colour.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Asha Sahni. All rights reserved.
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