By Katherine Bone
“The devil it is said never came to Cornwall for fear of being made into a pie.”
~ Cornwall and Its People by A.K. Hamilton Jenkin
Pie was a Cornish housewife’s most celebrated culinary art in the 18th-19th Centuries. Nothing was too big or too small for a pie. Seasonal herbs and vegetables, fish and various meats at her disposal, a Cornish wife utilized crafty baking skills to create tasty cuisine with ingredients that weren’t ‘too common or too unclean’ to be added to a pie.
Favorite ingredients included: mackerel, pilchard (Star-gazy fish), conger, bream, ram, muggety and nattlin (entrails of sheep), taddago (premature suckling pigs), curlew, squab (layers of young pigeon, apple, bacon, onions, and mutton), lammy, giblet, leek, ‘tatty’, ‘herby’, and more.
“Dear to Cornish palates, ‘one and all’,
Appeared in crusted pomp to grace the hall,
The pie, where herbs with veal in union meet,
The tasteful parsley, the nutricious beet,
The bitter mercury wild, nor valued less,
The watery lettuce and the pungent cress;
When ravishing with odours every nose,
The leek o’er layers of the pilchard rose,
Or, in a gentler harmony, with pork,
Ere yet of mouths it claim’d the playful work,
Attack’d the nostril with a tempting steam,
As opening, it ingulphed the golden cream.”
~ The Old English Gentleman, Cornwall and Its People
Transporting pie down into tin and copper mines wasn’t feasible due to contamination, because miners didn’t have enough time to surface and clean their hands. Ingenious housewives created a crusty pouch, folded on one side and crimped in a semi-circle on the other. These crusty borders safeguarded the contents, allowing men to carry their food down the shafts and eat a hearty lunch in a timely fashion by holding the soiled edges and then discarding them afterward. And thus, the Cornish pasty was born.
Cornish Pasty Recipe
For the Pastry:
- 3 cups Flour
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter, Cubed and kept cold until ready to use (2 sticks)
- small pinch of Salt
- 1/2 cup Cold Water
- 1 Egg, Beaten, to brush on pastry
For the Filling:
- 6 ounces Potato, Chopped bite-size pieces
- 6 ounces Rutabaga, Swede, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1/2 small Onion, Chopped small
- 1 pound Skirt Steak, Chopped into bite-size pieces
- 8 teaspoons Unsalted Butter
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Egg, Beaten
- 1 teaspoon Milk
For the Pastry:
- To a food processor add the flour and salt and butter.
- Pulse until you get the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
- With the processor running, slowly drizzle in cold water until it forms a ball.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a flat ball.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 10-15 minutes.
For the Filling:
- Preheat oven to 360°F.
- Whisk the egg with the milk.
- Take 4 ounces pastry and roll into an 8 inch circle.
- Place a small handful of potatoes, rutabaga, onion, and beef in the center of the pastry, leaving 2-inch border.
- Sprinkle with a small amount of salt pepper and flour. Place a little piece of butter on the top.
- Brush half of the edge of the pastry with egg mix then fold the pastry in half and seal the edge.
- Twist the edge to create a good seal.
- Cut a slit in the top of the pasties and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Brush all the pasties with the rest of the egg/milk and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.
“Aw, you don’t want fancy denners when you’re sweaten bare your bones,
An’ feel as ef you could digest a barraful of stones,
’Tes for somethin’ brave and solid that you knaw your sperit groans
And a hoggan like stull tember you could chose, comraade!”
~ St. James’s Chronicle
Cornish miners needed a rich, nourishing diet to survive the strenuous activity required of them down in the mines. Their loving grandmothers, mothers, wives, and daughters delivered and the pasty has been a most beloved Cornish culinary feast ever since.
Cornish Pasty Recipe: https://www.foodfanatic.com/2016/12/traditional-cornish-pasty/
Cornwall and Its People by A. K. Hamilton Jenkin: https://www.amazon.com/Cornwall-Its-People-HAMILTON-JENKIN/dp/B000RWQLQS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489537802&sr=8-1&keywords=cornwall+and+its+people