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Friday, 25 February 2011

Protected Pasties!

I do believe I might have mentioned Cornwall (once or twice) in this blog! Today, I make no apologies for doing it again.

This week, the Cornish Pasty was awarded "Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for its world famous pasty. The decision from the European Commission means that from now only Cornish pasties made in Cornwall and following the traditional recipe can be called ‘Cornish pasties’." (taken from the Cornish Pasty Association Website).

My first taste of a genuine Cornish Pasty was on Monday afternoon in mid August 2005.

I'd spent the previous fortnight at Tolmers Scout Camp, where as part of the famous Service Crew, I had helped celebrate the 25th anniversary of their CTT camp. I also lived on the site and knew that once the 2000 campers had gone home, I would be so depressed. So, I hit on a plan and called up a friend who I knew had a place down in Cornwall. This, I thought would be the perfect place to get away from it all.

This friend is considerably younger than me and he was staying at the house with his brother and others around his age. I got there quite late on Sunday night and went to bed.

Waking at 7 the next morning, I made myself a cup of coffee. Now, I drink VERY strong coffee made with three spoons of Alta Rica. I thought I would wait until everyone else got up before doing breakfast. Well, 8 came and went, as did 9 and 10, but still no one else had stirred. Having arrived in the dark the night before, I had no idea where I was, so could not go out. So, I just drank more coffee and waited. And waited.

Around half past midday, people began to stir. By now, I was shaking like a jelly in a hurricane on account of all the coffee I had drunk. I sort of kind of suggested that some breakfast might be in order, but everyone countered that it might be best to go to Padstow for that. I didn't find this out till later, but we were at the top end of Rock - the poshest part of North Cornwall.

We all piled into the car and drove down the narrow road to the quayside. It took us about another hour. Waiting on the beach for the ferry to Padstow took up another 30 minutes. I think it must have been about 2.30 when when we finally put to shore in Padstow.

Wandering round the bay, we found ourselves outside The Chough bakery. 'Lets get a pasty in here' says my mate. He orders a traditional one. I order a cheese and onion and a vegetable one and we wander over to the quayside and sit down to eat them, our legs dangling over the side.

Now, a cheese and onion pasty does not sound very exciting, but believe me, the first bite of this tasted amazing! It was juicy and spicy at the same time. The quantities of onion, potato and cheese were perfect as was the pastry. I was so amazed at the taste and went back to the shop to tell the woman who served me. I later found out she was Elaine Eade (pictured above, picture curtesy Cornish Pasty Association. I brought the cookbook and have spent the last few years trying to recreate the same experience, with I have to say, mixed results.

Now, at this point, I should put a recipe of my own up. But hey, why would I even try. As a vegetarian, I would never want a traditional Cornish Pasty, but the pastry is vegetarian. The TRADITIONAL recipe (used with many thanks to the Cornish Pasty Association) is given below.

The Traditional Cornish Pasty. This recipe is for 4 good sized Cornish Pasties
  • 500 gms strong bread flour (It is important to use a stronger flour than normal as you need the extra strength in the gluten to produce strong pliable pastry.
  • 120 gms white shortening (Trex is vegetarian - VR).
  • 25 gms cake margarine
  • 5 gms salt
  • 175 gms cold water
Mix fat lightly into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add water and beat in a food mixer until pastry clears and becomes elastic. This will take longer than normal pastry but it gives the pastry the strength that is needed to hold the filling and retain a good shape.

Leave to rest for 3 hours in a refrigerator, this is a very important stage as it is almost impossible to roll and shape the pastry when fresh.

Now, for a Cheese and Onion filling, I would use 60% strong cheddar - preferably from Cornwall and 20% potatoes and 20% strong english onions. Then I would put a knob of butter and a teaspoon of water into the mix. I then close up and crimp. Finally, I brush the top with egg and put the very finest dusting of black pepper and rock salt over the top before baking them for about an hour in a moderate oven.

There are no end of combinations of fillings you can make. Another favourite is portobello mushrooms with red onion and feta cheese, or garlic, spinach and chick peas. I am sure people can find their own favourites.

There are certain times in the life of a foodie they always remember. I will never forget the fantastic taste of the first proper vegetarian meal I ever cooked. I'll put the recipe up for that soon. My first taste of a true Cornish Pasty is another of those memories. Its for that reason that I am particularly pleased that this genuine BRITISH classic dish has been given the protected status it so richly deserves. Congratulations!