(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