Sunday, 24 November 2013

Cornish Pasties

Cornish Pasties can smell so inviting and moreishly savoury. The problem is that frequently, many of the versions that are available to buy are flavourless and bland and never quite live up to expectations.
 
You see, there is something that I find so appealing about the idea of the Cornish Pasty and I so want them to be the taste sensation that I imagine they could be… but regrettably, they often disappoint and fail to realise their own potential. Like a woman on a mission, I was determined that I would produce a recipe for a pasty to be proud of!
 
For something that appears to be quite humble with few ingredients, there were a lot of decisions to make and many possible variations on the theme. Consideration had to be given to the type of pastry; whether to add carrots or not; the vegetables that should be included, which cut of beef should be used and should the meat be minced or not… the list seemed daunting at first, because any of these decisions could potentially have a significant impact on the result I was trying to achieve.
 
The choice of which pastry to use when making pasties is very much one of personal preference. Purists insist that they should be made with shortcrust pastry only, but you regularly find them made with puff or flaky pastry.
 
After much experimentation, I opted for a hot water crust pastry as I found that it crisped up the most and did not get soggy even though the vegetables and meat released liquid during the cooking process. It was robust enough to withstand some manhandling, yet remained flaky in texture.
 
I found that puff pastry provided a pastry that was too flaky to successfully encase the filling and it began to disintegrate on handling after the pasties were cooked. Shortcrust pastry worked well but was not as crisp as the hot water crust pastry.
 
Taking my lead from traditional recipes, the only vegetables I used were potatoes, swede and onions. I diced these to a similar size - 1cm square dice - so that they would all cook at the same rate. I didn’t want to use large chunks of meat, nor did I want to use minced beef… so instead I decided to hand chop the meat myself. Using a sharp knife I chopped the meat into similar sized dice as the vegetables. The end result was just what I was looking for. The meat still had some texture but was not chewy and was easy to eat. Further flavour was added with the addition of some freshly chopped thyme and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce. I found that the thyme really added something and really brought out the savoury taste of the finished pasties. Make sure to season the meat mixture well with lots of freshly ground pepper and a generous pinch of salt.
 
Cornish Pasties are extremely adaptable and can be eaten hot or cold. They make ideal food for a picnic or packed lunch, but can also be served as a main course with vegetables.

Ingredients:

300g round steak
300g potato (I used Roosters)
150g swede
1tblsp of water
A few dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon of finely chopped thyme
Salt & freshly ground pepper to season
1 egg, beaten
Hot Crust Pastry:
400g plain flour
½ tsp salt
125g chilled butter
150ml water

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/Gas Mark 6. Line a large baking tray with some non-stick baking parchment.
2. Peel the onions and chop finely with a sharp knife.
3. Peel the potatoes and swede and chop into small dice, about 1cm square.
4. Trim any large piece of fat or sinew from the beef and chop finely into small dice, no more than 1cm square.
5. Place the diced meat and vegetables into a large bowl and season generously. Add the parsley, water and Worcestershire Sauce and mix with your hands to combine. Set aside while you make the pastry.
Pastry:
6. Sift the flour and salt together. Put the butter and water into a medium sized saucepan, place on a high heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and immediately add the flour and using a wooden spoon stir until it forms a ball.
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead briefly until smooth, but do not overwork. You need to roll and shape the pastry while it is still hot/war because it becomes increasingly difficult to manipulate as it cools.
8. Roll out the dough and cut into four or five 20cm circles.
9. Place mounds of the meat and vegetable mixture in the centre of each pastry circle, dividing it equally. Leave a good edge clear around the edge of the circle. For each individual pasty, brush the edges of the pastry with some of the beaten egg. Bring up both side of the pastry to meet in the middle, pinching and crimping the edges to contain and seal in the filling.
10. Place the Pasties on the lined baking tray and brush the tops of each with a little more egg wash. Bake for 10 minutes and then lower the heat to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/`Gas Mark 4 and continue baking for a further 30 minutes until golden brown and the filling is cooked through. These can be served hot or cold.

 
Makes 4-5.