Thursday, March 4, 2010


(Previous post Big Borscht is in the "Grow Your Own" Round-Up hosted by House of Annie. This pasty post would qualify, too.)

Pasty could well describe the skin tone of most of us northerners this time of year, but in this case it's not PASTE-ee, but PASS-tee, short 'e' sound, doncha know, hey. That's the Cornish treat beloved of Yoopers and Iron Rangers, hungry, hard-working miners of the North Country. It's a portable meal of humble ingredients that has achieved legendary status because, well, what other dish are the Cornish known for? Not to damn with faint praise, although I've had a few pasties that didn't really rise above the humble ingredients. Mine are sort of jazzed-up pasties that are almost hybrid empanadas. Like most other combinations of flour and fat in our household, the pastry benefited greatly from the tender touch of "Mary, Pastry Goddess."

The most basic pasty filling consists of ground beef, onion, potato, and rutabaga. Variations on the theme are myriad (and I must say, quite welcome, given the spartan flavors in the basic template). Some add pork, or other root vegetables, boullion cube or gravy, cream of mushroom soup (which I think is going too far down the Midwestern road). I look at this type of dish as a "use what you have" preparation, and what I had was: leftover grilled
Sheepy Hollow Lamb leg, leek, carrot, potato, turnip, squash and onion (all from our garden except the onion). And an open bottle of red wine, and lamb stock.

(I do enjoy chopping!)

A lot of the pasties I've had have tended to the dry side, that quality rectified by copious application of the Iron Ranger's favorite condiment "sauce de tomates a la Heinz." I served ours with frozen sauce from last year's garden tomatoes, freshened with a bit of onion, garlic, and a splash of white wine.

Here's my filling, which made enough for a dozen pasties and a pot pie. In other words, it's way too much, so adjust to your needs. But pasties are a great thing to have in the freezer. They made a quick late dinner for us just last night, and this time we had some of our apple ketchup on the side, and that was excellent.

Too Much Pasty Filling:

1 med leek, white and most of green sliced thin 1 cup
1 large carrot, in small dice (3/4 cup)
1/2 large onion chopped 1 cup
2 large potatoes peeled and diced 2 cups
1 small turnip peeled in small dice
1 cup diced squash
1 large garlic clove minced
2 cups diced cooked lamb
3/4 cup lamb stock
1/4 cup red wine
3 Tbsp flour

Mix it all up in a big bowl. The stock and wine are the "Gravy Train" factor; the flour thickens it.

The Pastry Goddess's Buttery Crust:

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 ounces (one stick) unsalted Hope Creamery butter, cold
1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water (and possibly a little more to get the dough to come together)

Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal cutting (not dough) blade. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and add to the flour. Pulse a few times to break the butter down a little more. Add 1/4 cup of water and pulse a few more times. The dough should start to come together in a ball. If it doesn't, add more water a tablespoon at a time, and pulse until it does start to come together. It needn't be a totally uniform dough at this point, and you don't want to overwork it. It's okay if it looks a little crumbly still (tolerance of crumbliness, I have found from observation, is the key to the Pastry Goddess's powers).

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured counter, bring it gently together, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling.

When you're ready to fill and bake, roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut rounds of about 10 inches. Add filling. Crimp on the top or on the side. Brush with an egg wash, poke a couple of holes in the dough on top with the point of a paring knife to let steam escape. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or so, until they are golden and steaming.

We served ours with a glass of our own hard cider, which is really quite Cornish, indeed--"...pint of scrumpy and a pasty in a pub," the Cornish "national meal" (with a nod to Rick Stein of The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and many BBC cooking series).

Text and photo copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw


Teresa Marrone said...

Hey Brett--

We love pasties also. According to some, one thing that may cause dry filling is using cooked meat (or cooking it just prior to forming the pasty, whichever). I recently read a recipe on Epicurious that called for sauteeing ground beef with the onions etc. prior to forming the pasty. One of the comments was from a Yooper who was, let's just say, disdainful about the very idea of putting already-cooked meat into a pasty. Horrors!

The pasty recipe I use was given to me by Ron Berg, former chef at the Gunflint Lodge (not sure it is in any of his books; he's a friend and shared it with me a few years ago). It uses raw ground venison (or beef), mixing it with finely diced 'bagas, carrots, onions and taters (also raw, of course, and finely diced--like, 1/8 inch--rather than chopped). He also provided a crust recipe which was kneaded rather than treated gently... kind of an odd concept! But damn, those pasties are good. We just enjoyed a few from the freezer the other day as a car lunch during a long, tedious drive.

Enjoyed the post. Made me hungry!

el said...

Yikes, you fell for the same thing with the entirely-too-much-filling trap! My extras went to the chickens, but yeah, I think I made 10 pasties total. And no WAY should you cook the meat beforehand. I got around the "dry" thing with mine by using chopped side pork (basically, uncured bacon) with the lean-ish grass-fed ground boeuf. It's an experience I will repeat, surely. I like your squash addition, Brett. And hat's off and deep bow to TPQ.

Charles Leck said...

I want to know about the split pea sausage soup! How do I find out?

Trout Caviar said...

Teresa, El: For the record I was not saying one SHOULD make them with cooked meat. I was taking the approach of the economical housewife and using what I had in the fridge, and with excellent rare lamb leg, lamb stock, and red wine, mine were by no means dry. I think it's generally too much potato and dull crust that make them dry.

But how do you ladies feel about the cream of mushroom soup option...?

Side pork, absolutely. But I saw one recipe that called for lean veal! What an expensive waste that would be. I would love to try them with venison, rabbit, other game. Fish pasties, why not?

Charlie: The split pea soup was great, but I can't provide a recipe for everything I eat! Just tell Anne we've had many wonderful meals from that half a lamb, and many more to come. Braised lamb shanks at Bide-A-Wee this weekend.

And finally: A true pasty must be able to survive the fall to the bottom of a tin mine. True or false?

Thanks for writing, all~ Brett

ESP said...

Pasties.........Cornish Pasties to be more precise, are at the top of my gastronomic / on the road / camping must-have-list. I grew up with these in England, then when we moved to Scotland, the more unhealthy Scottish version cheese pasties.

What you need for any pastie though is the British staple "Branston Pickle" to dip the pasty in. Trust me you will not be disappointed.


Trout Caviar said...

Thanks, ESP. Branston Pickle is on my list!

Cheers~ Brett

Teresa Marrone said...

Nixie on the cream o' mushroom soup! But you knew that. I have read that some pasty makers put savory filling (ground meat, 'bagas etc) on one half of the pasty, and sweet filling such as apples on the other. That way, the diner can have both lunch and dessert in one convenient parcel. I never saw one like this in Cornwall (from whence I believe this idea originated) but it sounds intriguing. Anyone heard of this idea?

Bless you for being a thrifty housewife, Brett. I am sure your rare lamb was excellent in the pasty. Do try it with ground raw venison some time also... excellent.

Rob said...

Dang, and there's that rutabaga again! Yep, pasty is an autumnal affair for us Finns throughout MN. Zups in Ely sells them in a pinch for time. Just in case one was in Ely.

Grandma served them smothered in a mushroom cream sauce. No, not the Campbell's red can stuff; it was homemade. Sadly, the recipe is lost when she passed. Now don't get me wrong about the Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, it is good substitution, but too salty for me.

Anyhoo, the lovely pasty is the saving grace for putting up with the winter months.

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Teresa, Rob: Rob, a fresh mushroom sauce on a pasty sounds really good. Don't know if it's "authentic," and then, I don't really care! Rutabagas used to be pretty much of a staple food in the northern winters, I guess. I haven't had Zup's pasties, but their smokehouse products are great. We frequently hit the Silver Bay store on our way up the shore.

Yes, Teresa, the cream o' 'shroom soup, I was just...goading. I like that sweet and savory combo idea. And here's one more bit of pasty trivia: One source I found said that a traditional pasty was crimped quite thickly on the top, so a miner could grasp that ridge of dough with his dirty hand, and then toss that bit away when he was done!

Cheers~ Brett