Yesterday, with the help of a crack team, we knocked out 96 Cornish pasties. Ninety-six is about 88 more than I normally make at a sitting but this was a bit of a special ‘do’. They’re now residing in someone’s freezer, destined for the restaurant at the Anglican Church Bazaar in Basel, which takes place next Saturday 28 November (don’t miss it if you’re in the Basel area!):
Pasties and me go back a bit. It all started in 1990 when the Bazaar Restaurant team was looking for a new dish to serve as part of the lunch menu. Cornish pasties were mooted, and we decided on a pilot with 48 pasties (six times the recipe given below). We’d see how they went and if there seemed to be a market, we’d take it from there. They were a sellout – seems like there were loads of Cornish pasty-starved folks in the Basel region. [For anyone not familiar with these yumptious meat-and-veg pastry turnovers, they came originally from, erm, Cornwall. Read the full story here on Wikipedia.]
Emboldened by our trial run, the following year we crept nervously up to 64 pasties. Sold out by about 11.30, we decided next time to do 150 pasties. Same story, so we increased the tally to 192. In 1994 (according to my blotchy, pastry-smeared records) we went completely bonkers and made 262. Clearly chastened by this mammoth effort, I reined this back the following year to 192 again, then crept gradually back up to around 250 every year until 2005. Then I hung up my rolling pin.
I vowed never to do it again. Then this year a Very Persuasive Person inveigled me into making some more. I put out a call on social media and through my workshops mailing list and got a great response. With the help of 12 choppers, rollers and crimpers we made about 100 pasties. It was exhausting but – as ever – loads of fun, and we test-drove some of the pasties for lunch (in the interests of quality control, of course).
In case you want to make your own – either for yourself or for the Bazaar (there’s still time) – here’s the recipe, which makes 8 chubby pasties. NB: if you don’t want to make your own pastry, buy 2 x 500g packs of shortcrust (pâte brisée/Kuchenteig).
Pastry (makes about 900g)
1 level tsp salt
125g margarine + 125g butter
1 egg + 135ml iced water
500g trimmed stewing beef (we used gîte carrée from Viande Cash, Hésingue – tell the lovely Régine I sent you, she’ll know what you need…)
2 tbsp chopped parsley, and/or dried thyme or herbes de Provence
2 level tsp salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
- Make the pastry in your usual way, form into a rough rectangle, wrap in foil and chill it.
- Cut the beef in small pieces and put in a large mixing bowl.
- Peel the potatoes and carrots and chop in small pieces, about the size of your thumbnail.
- Peel the onions, cut in quarters and chop finely in a food processor in several batches, together with the parsley. (Alternatively, chop finely by hand with the parsley).
- Put the meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, parsley, thyme/herbes de Provence (if used), salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well with your hands.
- Cut the home-made pastry into 8 equal-sized pieces (or cut each 500g pack in 4 equal-sized pieces). Using a rolling pin, start by patting each piece out to a rough circle on a well-floured board, to get it going in the right direction. Then roll out to a 20-cm circle – use a 20cm plate as a template – and cut away any excess.
- Divide the filling into 8 equal portions. (Or if you want to be super-precise, place a small cup on your digital scales, set to zero, fill with 135g meat and vegetables.)
- Tip the measured meat and vegetable filling out onto each pastry round. Place it to one side of the pastry, form it into an oval.
- Brush some water round half the circumference of the pastry, fold it up into a pasty/turnover, press the edges together to seal, giving a good 1.5cm sealed border.
- Brush a band of water over the outside of the sealed edge, then turn the sealed edge over itself and crimp it decoratively, pinching with your thumbs with each fold.
- If not baking the pasties immediately, you can freeze them – lay them on a sheet of non-stick paper on a cake rack and open-freeze. Once frozen hard they can be bagged up and sealed.
- To bake pasties, heat the oven to 200oC, glaze the pasties with beaten egg and put on a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper.
- Bake for 45 minutes (pasties can be baked from frozen – add about another 10 minutes cooking time) or until the pastry is golden.
- Serve with chutney and salad.