Baking · Britain

The downside of being married

I know what you’re thinking — this will be another post about having to make some sort of weird aboriginal English food.  You couldn’t be more wrong.

angel-018Steve was a single man, living in a house with 3 cats.  The house was large enough for each of the cats to have their own bedroom, which they didn’t, and was filled with Steve’s stuff.  When we moved in after getting married, we moved 4 people, with their “stuff,” and left a large amount of furniture behind because there was just no room for it.

Yesterday I decided to tackle something Steve has spoken fondly of, Cornish pastys, a weird aboriginal English food.  I have to confess I always inwardly giggle when I hear that term Pasty because if you say it with a long “a,” it is the covering a showgirl would utilize to maintain a tiny bit of upper body modesty.  While chuckling to myself, I went looking for my pie plate.

A word of explanation – a Cornish pasty was designed to be lunch for miners in Cornwall.  After a hard morning of slugging it out underground, their hands would be covered with arsenic, generally not a good seasoning for any lunchtime treat.  Some brilliant wife came up with the idea of developing a main course that could be eaten with a crusty “handle” on it, to keep the poisonous dust out of their darling’s mouth.   Once they were finished, the handle was discarded and the miners lived to dig another day!

Cornish Pastie
Cornish Pasty

A pasty resembles a calzone other than the crimped edge has to be sturdy enough to hold up a hefty serving of meat and vegetables without crumbling; it needs to be solid like the British Empire!

In searching for recipes, I came across Delia’s recipe for Cornish Pasty Pie.  Delia is Britain’s Martha Stewart, without the criminal record.  The recipe appealed to me because she noted the main drawback with a pasty is a lot of crust and not much filling.  Being not a crust lover myself, I could see the sense in this and forthwith decided to deviate from the original weird aboriginal intent and just feed my darling the flavors he loved.

Back to the pie pan.  I have no idea where it is.  We moved as much into the house as we could.  The kitchen (and I’ll try to say this without sounding too whiny) is less spacious than the one I came from, and of course came complete with all of Steve’s stuff, so there was no room to put anything to begin with.  I have stoneware down the hall in a linen closet.  I have pottery on a decorative shelf in the dining room, trying to be decorative while still appearing to be sporting signs which say, “No, I am NOT just being stored here.”  I have a pantry where a flashlight and the fear of God are required to locate anything.  The garage is filled with boxes, stacked 3 high and 5 deep.  Lord help the man who wants to change the oil on his car — there is no room as it has become adjunct storage.  I failed to find my pie pan.

When I say pie pan (singular), I am referring to my Longaberger pie pan.  I have other glass products, but I am singularly fond of this particular one.  So use a glassy one?  Ha!  I used my Longaberger serving bowl and it worked quite well!

Longaberger bowl with Pastie Pie filling
Longaberger bowl with Pasty Pie filling

Weird Aboriginal Cornish Pasty Pie

Adapted from Delia Smith

For the pastry:

12 oz (350 g) plain flour
6 oz (175 g) lard (or shortening if you absolutely have to, but it won’t be as good)
beaten egg, to glaze
salt and freshly milled pepper

For the filling:

1¼ lb (575 g) chuck steak
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 level teaspoon dried mixed herbs *see below
1 medium to large potato
1 medium to large turnip
1 large carrot
salt and freshly milled pepper

To glaze:

beaten egg

Make the pastry first: sift the flour, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl, holding the sieve up as high as possible to give the flour an airing. Then cut the lard into small cubes and add to the flour. Now, using your fingertips, lightly and gently rub the pieces of fat into the flour – lifting your hands up high as you do this (again to incorporate air) and being as quick as possible.

When the mixture looks uniformly crumbly, start to sprinkle roughly 2-3 tablespoons of cold water all over. Use a round-bladed knife to start the mixing, cutting and bringing the mixture together. Carefully add more water if needed, a little at a time, then finally bring the mixture together with your hands to form a smooth ball of dough that will leave the bowl clean (if there are any bits that won’t adhere to it, you need a spot more water). Now rest the pastry, wrapped in foil or polythene, in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before rolling out.

Slice the meat very thinly
Slice the meat very thinly

Meanwhile, slice the meat into very thin strips about 2 inches (5 cm) long (it’s important to keep them very thin in order that they cook in the time given). Place the meat in a mixing bowl, with the chopped onion and mixed herbs. Then peel the potato, carrot and turnip and slice these as thinly as possible too.  A mandolin, if you promise to use the hand guard or the slicing edge of a four-sided grater does this thin slicing job in moments.

Preheat the oven to 400º.  Line your pie plate with 1/2 the dough rolled out. Layer the filling ingredients in it (in any order). Season well with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of herbs as you go, and finally sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of water. Roll out the other half of the pastry, dampen the edge all round, then fit it over the top of the pie. Seal the edges, folding them inwards and pressing gently to make a rim just inside the edge of the plate. Score the top to release steam, brush the surface with beaten egg, and bake the pie on a baking sheet, on a high shelf, for 15 minutes. Then turn the heat down to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C), and continue to cook on the center shelf for a further 1½ hours.

Serve this hot or alternatively, as it is still delicious eaten cold, take it on a picnic.

Weird Aboriginal Cornish Pastie Pie
Weird Aboriginal Cornish Pasty Pie

The English have 2 jars on their spice shelf in the supermarket which are called for frequently in cooking.  You will not find them in the US, so I will give them both to you here, in case you find yourself needing a Christmas pudding with your WACPP (Weird Aboriginal Cornish Pasty Pie)

Mixed Herbs

Combine equal parts:

  • Thyme
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Basil
  • Spearmint – optional

 Mixed Spice

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Optional – coriander, ginger

After all the fuss of not having space, having part of my life in boxes and un-findable, would I trade it?  Absolutely not!  The rearranging and prioritizing of boxes is part of the adventure.

Steve said the pie was good, but he missed having more crust, so Delia, I’m sorry but the vote is not to mess with the original.


2 thoughts on “The downside of being married

  1. Yes I am the owner of those two pussy cats. Well lets be realistic, I provided the home and food while they allowed me to live with them.

    Well before anyone else points it out, yes in the lovely pie picture that was a bottle of Newqy Brown in the background. So for the geographically challenged let me state one is from the Southwest and the other is from the Northeast of England. They are from exactly the two opposite ends of the country. Yes they both have/had lots of mines. The Cornish were after tin and the Newcastle mines are for coal.

    Now if only we could buy a bottle of Sharp’s Doom Bar then things would have been better. At least it wasn’t a bottle of Budweiser.

    Back to the pie, it was a really good taste. For me the challenge was watching the “picky” eaters go through the contents and discard the parts they didn’t want. When you got a pasty, you ate it. You couldn’t pick through it. It was in your hand and you just ate it all. Teenagers should have hated it but I don’t remember that. I mean, with a pasty you forced them to both eat both the veggies and crust with the meat or leave everything.

    Luckily I don’t like fish, or fish don’t like me. So we are not going to visit the making of Stary-Gazy pie.

    The taste was actually great and I was lucky enough to be able to finish the last plateful, even as a pie. I hope she wants to perfect the taste.

    So no comment on how you spell Cornish Pasty.


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