Cornish pasties and the PGI

We all know the protagonists: potato, onion, turnip and beef, gathered together in a D-shaped pastry case with a crimp on the side (sounds like a celebrity threesome) and Made In Cornwall.

The fairytale, high-velouting jus of Michelin-starred establishments it is not, but the effect of bringing the Cornish pasty home will indeed have ‘Cinderella’ implications for Cornwall: protecting jobs and income.

The 2011 PGI or Protected Geographical Indication of the pasty states that it must be 12.5% meat and 25% veg and wrapped in shortcrust, rough puff or puff pastry. The ingredients: roughy diced or minced beef, sliced or diced potato, turnip (swede to out-of-county heathens), onion and seasoning (white pepper for my mum’s recipe).

Yet one of the characters doesn’t follow the narrative for me: mince.

Specks of meat as opposed to pieces? An evil stepmother from the universe of spag bol and cottage pie that destroys the happy-ending of a ‘chunky’ filling? Is this some kowtowing to the industrial market that would pay less for mince than skirt or chuck steak?

At this point in the story, I’ve lost the plot and the thread, the tale and the yarn, so much so that, dear EU, you may as well chuck some carrot in with your darned mince (then it really will look like a baby’s puked up dinner and believe me, I’ve seen a few).

Bear with me as I skip down another narratory sub-plot; with its newly-found PGI, the pasty has now become a homogenous being of static ingredients, a still in the film of Cornish past but what then, of the turnip, beef and onion pasty sans potato? Or hog’s pudding and bacon, leek and potato, apple, liver and onion, herb and all those other varied ingredients that would once have been thrown in to feed the farmers or miners at crib or croust time?

As Ann of the wonderful Ann’s pasties on The Lizard makes clear: “you can put anything in a pasty, it’s just a wrapping.”

Presumably we can console ourselves by calling them cornish pasties but not Cornish pasties as the new geographical indication states.

In celebration of the big ‘C’ however, here are some I made earlier but feel free to fiddle with the filling:
You will need:
Pastry:

  • 1lb plain flour
  • 6ozs fat (half lard, half butter)
  • Pinch salt
  • Cup of cold water

Filling:

  • 1lb beef skirt (chopped to the size of a fingernail)
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes (thinly chipped in a bowl of water, in pieces approx the size of a 20p coin)
  • 2 finely chopped onions
  • Turnip (optional, best finely chipped but grated will do)
  • Sea salt and white pepper
  • Butter

Preheat oven to 200°C. Breadcrumb the fat with the flour and a pinch of salt. Add cold water a little at a time, gently stirring with a knife until all the dry bits are picked up. Take the dough in your hands and gently squeeze, rather than knead, together to form a ball. Take a small lump about the size of a clenched fist and roll it out on a floured surface. Once about 2mm thick all over, place a side plate on top and cut round with a knife. Repeat with the rest of the pastry, using the off cuts for the last one.

Strain and thoroughly dry the potato chips. Place approx. 2 finger fulls of meat onto the top third of the pastry disc, sprinkle a little pinch of salt over the meat, then add a scattering of onion, a more hefty scattering of potato and some more onion. Season with salt and pepper this time and add a small knob of butter. Put some milk in a cup, dip your fingers in and run them around the edge of the pastry circle.

Now gently but firmly bring the bottom half of the pastry disc up over the filling and pinch together in 2 or 3 places, joining the edges. Shuffle the pasty slightly to encourage the filling to settle a little. Now pinch firmly all the way along the side of the pasty, so that about a centimetre is pinched all along. Then go back along, crimping as you go (folding the pastry between thumb and forefinger to form a little ‘hem’).

Rub milk lightly on the bulging surface, create a little vent in the top for steam to come out and put in the oven on a lightly-floured tray for approx one hour or until golden brown.

Enjoy with a bottle of Tribute.

And experiment with fillings (see above). The Mexicans do a line in blackcurrant and cheese (zarzamora y queso). Get in.