As a family we went to Devon every summer for two weeks. Yes, Children of the Modern age, back in the 1970s/80s you had one holiday a year, to the same self-catering place, with no TV , intermittent hot water. And you loved it and were grateful.
Nick was spending his two weeks in similar circumstances in Cornwall the next county down, with a six-hour journey in a three-wheeler from Derbyshire, they couldn’t listen to music because his dad needed to “hear” the engine . The highlight of the journey was apparently stopping off at the Ginsters Factory for bags of Cornish pasties . He swears their pasties in the 1970/80s were fantastic.
Perhaps if I had indulged as a child I might have tried pasties them sooner but the soggy looking envelopes prevalent in corner shop chilller cabinets always looked like they were filled with something predigested . So it was not until my twenties and ravenous after a day of falling off surfboards in St Ives that I bought my first pasty.
It started well, heavy , hot from the oven with flaky pastry and no sooner had a started biting in and I was planning a second and third purchase ( only the prospect of a pasty bulging wetsuit prevented me) . I couldn’t believe how the simplest of fillings , potato , onion, swede , beef and black pepper to season could taste so good. Since then on holidays in Cornwall I always make sure to pick up a pastie for a lunch on the beach or walking. I like how tiny shops sell their own versions and you have to get them early or they sell out
Last week in what has been described by the Cornish Pasty Association, as a “guarantee of quality” the European Commission assigned Cornish Pasties with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) . Effectively meaning EU producers may only label pasties as Cornish if they made within the specific geographical area of Cornwall and with features or qualities attributable to that area.
The features according to the Cornish Pasty association are
- a distinctive D shape and is crimped onone side, never on top.
- texture of the filling is chunky, made up of uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%),
- swede, potato, onion with a light seasoning.
- pastry casing is golden in colour, savoury, glazed with milk or egg and robust enough to retain its shape throughout the cooking and cooling process without splitting or cracking.
- pasty is slow-baked and no artificial flavourings or additives must be used.
The Cornish Pasties application for PGI is derived from historial records attributing Cornish Tin minors with developing pasties to take down the Cornish Tin mines in the 1800s.
“The crust (crimped edge) was used as a handle which was then discarded due to the high levels of arsenic in many of the tin mines. The pastry case insulated the contents and was durable enough to survive while its wholesome, nourishing ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long and arduous days.” PGI Cornish Pasty application
This designation is not yet final with full registration of the PGI approval should be given in the next week or so. The recent announcement is not without some controversy award winning Devon producers Chunk of Devon who say the PGI only specifies where it is produced rather than a mark of quality.
“When champagne ….got its famous status they had a list of quality obsessed rules … the pasty rules are simply make it here. You can therefore rock up with a bit of dosh,set up a shed, buy in cheap imported meat and veg, a handful of flavour enhancers, use a naff margarine pastry and hey ho a Cornish Pasty….. far removed from the iconic scoff that is the real thing! ” Chunk of Devon Website
The PGI Cornish Pasty application is a little more poetic .
“Although there is no requirement for the raw ingredients to be sourced from within Cornwall in practice much of it continues to be supplied by local farmers thus continuing the long established symbiotic relationship between Cornish farmer and Cornish baker. “
It might sound like a case of sour grapes but sadly Chunk of Devon are entirely correct , where something it produced is not neccessarily a mark of quality especially if the place designated is over 1000 square miles.
In fact champagne has to adhere to more specific rules since it is registered as a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) this designation term used to describe foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how. The British example is Stilton Cheese can only be made in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire from local milk and dairies are licencnsed in it’s production. The link with the area is therefore stronger for PDOs.
A PGI requires a link with the area only in at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation (Melton Mowbray Pork Pies – Melton Mowbray. The small town of Melton Mowbray would be over-run with pigs if all the pork required came from this city ).
You will also still be able to get your pasties from a freindly station or town centre outlet trucked up from Cornwall ,
Assembly of the pasties in preparation for baking must take place in the designated area. The actual baking does not have to be done within the geographical area, it is possible to send the finished but unbaked and/or frozen pasties to bakers or other outlets outside the area where they can be baked in ovens for consumption.” PGI Cornish Pasty application
Other items currently under publication include PDOs for Native Shetland Wood and PGIs for Welsh Beef and Lamb, Lough Neagh Eel.
My personal view is that marketeers know people have got a bit hung up on awards ,desginations and labels, and they exploit it for a premium rarely of benefit to small local producers . It is best to keep and enquiring mind , get to know local producers and read the small print .
I’ve made some not at all Cornish Pasties right down to the lack of side crimp but they were lovely made mine with beef from Blackbrook Longhorns beef (they are 15 miles from me and regulars at my local market grilling gorgeous burgers) . Potatoes , onions swede from the vegebox . I used a mix of lard and butter which gives a lovely flaky texture on baking. Anyway that’s the science bit now onto the tasty pasty bit.
Not at all Cornish Pasties
125g chilled and diced butter
500g plain flour , plus extra to roll out
Pinch of salt
1 egg , beaten
350g stweing beef e.g shin/leg
1 large onion , finely chopped
2 medium potatoes , peeled, thinly sliced
175g swedes , peeled, finely diced
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1.Using a food processor , pulse the butter and lard into the flour with a pinch of salt
2. Blend in 6 tbsp cold water to make a firm dough. and place in the fridge for 20minutes to chill
3. Heat oven to 220degC
4. Mix together the filling ingredients. Divide the dough into 6
5. Roll out each piece of dough on a lightly floured surface until large enough to make a round about 20cm across – use a plate to trim it to shape.
6. Firmly pack a sixth of the filling into the centre of the disc, leaving a margin at each end.
7. Brush the pastry all the way round the edge with beaten egg, carefully draw up both sides so that they meet at the top, then pinch them together to seal.
8. Lift onto a non-stick baking tray and brush with the remaining egg to glaze.
9. Bake for 10 mins, then lower oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and cook for 45 mins more until golden.
They were delicious and the builders agreed, once you have made a batch you can freeze them before baking and bake from frozen, just allow an extra 15 minutes at the end .
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