Lockdown lunches: how to make the perfect pasty
A pasty on the way home from the pub was FT journalist Daniel Garrahan's pre-lockdown guilty pleasure. So food writer Tim Hayward shows him how to make a 'cornish-style' pasty, which doesn't even pretend to be authentic, as well as one with haddock, leek and clotted cream and a vegetarian option, filled with cheese and onion
Filmed by Lauren Juliff and Liberty Wright. Produced by Daniel Garrahan and Tim Hayward. Edited by Daniel Garrahan
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This is amazing. This is my childhood all over again.
Mm. Tim, I've got a confession to make. One of my guiltiest, guiltiest pleasures is a cheese and onion pasty on the way home from the pub.
I too am a lover of the pasty although I've also travelled down to Cornwall quite a lot. I mean, they are so keen on the authenticity of the pasty. There are very good reasons for it. I mean, it's a phenomenal thing. It's a great way of cooking.
There's a French technique called en papillote. You may have seen it in a restaurant where they bring kind of an envelope made of grease-proof paper to the table, and they open it up. And inside usually fish but sometimes light meat have been gently steamed with aromatic vegetables, and wine, and things like that. And it's delicious. It's absolutely...
And that's precisely what they do with a pasty. During the cooking process, which is about 40 minutes, basically everything inside steams to perfection.
So are you telling me that a pasty is a refined thing in terms of the technique involved?
It uses the same technique as something that is incredibly refined. I'm going to say right here, emphatically, we are not going to make Cornish pasties. Everybody in Cornwall stand down, OK?
Cornish-style pasty? Would we get away with that?
No, no, no, no, no, no. No, absolutely not. We can't say that. You're from Newcastle or something, aren't you?
I've got another confession to make. I also adore a Greggs pasty. You cannot take a boy out of the northeast. You cannot take the northeast out of a boy.
So what have you got there?
I've got some short crust pastry which I've just bought from the supermarket.
No shame in that. Break it roughly into five balls. We're behaving like Cornish housewives here. So we don't have to worry about how measured we are. Although I'm sure we're going to get a letter now from a Cornish housewife saying, I measure everything to the gramme, dammit.
I'm doing the veggie version of it. So what veg would typically go into a Cornish pasty?
I think there's room for variation. I think they even admit that in Cornwall. You do need potatoes, onions, there's got to be swede for me. The really, really authentic thing that gives the really English the butcher shop flavour to it is white pepper.
I'm going to use beef in some of mine, and I'm going to use haddock in some of mine.
What's going to give it the meatiness? What might replace the beef you're going to use in yours? Would Marmite do the job?
Yeah, that would be great.
Let's go for some thyme. That's pretty English. I'm going to cut about 100 grammes each of 1 centimetre dice, the potatoes, carrots, mix them up.
We're not actually going to cook any of this, are we?
No, we're not. I'm just putting it in a bowl. You want to choose things that are roughly of the same density, I suppose, and you want to cut them the same size. Pretty much everything is balanced.
Yeah, they're all root vegetables. They're all quite firm. So nothing is going to kind of fall apart and get too mushy. So 100 grammes of carrot, 100 grammes of potatoes, 100 grammes of Swede, roughly.
I'm doing a separate little bit of prep here. I'm very, very finely shredding the green of a leek to go with my haddock pasty
So the potatoes, the carrots, the Swede, and the onion all together, just mixed up in a pot.
Just separating a little bit out for my haddock experiment. I've realised over the last couple of weeks that what we've been doing has been really quite loosely wired.
Well, that's what cooking should be about, isn't it?
I've learned some really good things. I hope you have as well.
I'm taking the skin off my piece of smoked haddock. And I'm going to cut that into 1-inch cubes as well.
I thought I might try and recreate the Greggs cheese and onion delight as well.
Great, OK. And I'm using a cut of beef called skirt.
You don't need a sort of expensive cut in a pasty, I wouldn't have thought.
No, no, no. No, skirt is the one.
I've got two bowls as well. I've got one for my Cornish style vegetable pasty. And I'm doing one for my cheese and onion pasty, which is the thing that I used to eat on the way home from the pub. Into that one I'm just putting potatoes and onions for now. Into the Cornish style vegetable pasty bowl, a teaspoon of Marmite.
Oh my god. The white pepper is literally at the back of the cupboard.
Is white pepper radically different to black pepper? Or is it kind of more than aesthetic thing?
You're immediately transferred to a butcher shop in the 1970s, eating a sausage roll. And now, when I taste it, jeez, this is amazing. This is my childhood all over again. It's like licking a Zoom, and white dog poo, and all that sort of stuff.
What happened to white dog poo? It's one of life's mysteries, isn't it? It just disappeared.
Get out of here, junior. You aren't even old enough to remember.
Around the late 1980s. I tell you what, until then, it was a thing.
You normally would not add any liquid at all to the interior of a pasty. It doesn't have gravy. It makes its own gravy.
Clotted cream is Cornish, right?
Oh my goodness, do you know what you're doing here? Cornish purists are going to be having kittens at this, aren't they?
Oh, they'll be up in arms.
I've got dry thyme.
It doesn't need much.
How about the white pepper? How much of that would you put in there?
A third of a teaspoon, maybe a little more. When you've got your ingredients seasoned in a bowl put a plate over the top of them.
Now it's on the job, actually.
Plenty of flour on the table, yes, so it doesn't stick.
Turn and roll.
And you want a circle around 15 centimetres across. Paint milk around the outside to make it sticky when you want to stick it together. You put a small handful of the filling in the middle, pull the sides up, and pinch them together where you wet it with the milk.
There's this old myth that when they made the Cornish pasties, they made them so tough that the miners' wives could take them to the mine head and drop them down the mine. I don't think they have to be that tough anymore. But you do want to make a substantial crust.
And the technique for closing them, you're just kind of bringing it up to the middle so the ends meet.
And you pinch those together once, and kind of fold back what you've done on itself.
Mine looks a bit like a fajita, which is obviously entirely wrong. My camera operator is grimacing at the state of my pasty.
That's not the most attractive-looking pasty I've ever seen, but I suppose it's more about how it tastes, right? That's what I'll keep telling myself anyway.
So I'm now going over to the meat filling on mine.
Do you put anything on the outside of it to glaze it?
Yeah, you can use milk. Egg wash is possible. Just with your fingers.
Is that better?
I'm not sure anyone would pay for it.
You're not sure you pay for it?
Sick burn. Oven at 200 degrees, 40 minutes.
They are looking absolutely superb. Ordinarily you just want to paw straight into them and start gnawing. But let's get a little bit of a cross-section first of all. I've still got steam coming off it, even though I've let it cool for about 10 minutes. So let's give it a go.
The miners would have had it cold, right?
Too hot, you just burn the roof of your mouth. That's pretty good. I'm going to try one of the fish ones now, because this I'm quite excited by.
The cheese and onion pasty is absolutely delicious. The only thing I might add to it if I were to do it again would maybe be a little mustard. So now I'm going for the veggie take on the Cornish - or not the Cornish, the Cornish style, we should say.
Thank you, yes. That's really good. Pasties were my dad's favourite food. He was an absolute pasty obsessive. And as part of his job, he used to drive all over the country. But he used to know everywhere he could get a decent pasty. It always makes me think of dad. And I think he would have been proud of these. There's no better compliment than that, even the fish one, which he wouldn't have approved of.
So tasty. And not just something for the journey home from the pub, actually. A really satisfying lockdown lunch.