A Pillow Book

I wanted a blog to reflect my life and, as with most people, I do and am many things, decided to create a Pillow Book. It will have thoughts, ideas, observations and little snippets of my day to day life. So, thank you Empress Consort Teishi....... I bow to you and your great work and hope, in some small way, mine might be great too.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Cornwall Time.............

 We have only been as far as Cornwall for a few days but in crossing the Tamar/border and seeing the sign that says 'Kernow a' gas dynergh' or 'Welcome to Cornwall' always makes us feel as though we have travelled to another land. But to be honest Cornwall is another country...Cornish time is slower, people are friendlier and the light  brighter. You can still find beaches at the bottom of valleys where an honesty box in the wall of a church asks for £2 parking, or a farmer sets aside a field and for a small amount you can park all day.  The beaches run up to the roads and are often covered with sand, beach cafes are still owned by people who bake their own cakes, tea comes steaming in mugs, locally made ice cream is sold alongside  floury baps filled with crab or sardines fresh from the sea. Cornwall has a sense of otherness about it,  the Cornish are an individual race, and still do things in their own way and in their own time.  It reminds me a lot of Ireland, the Celtic roots run deep.  Who could hate a place where you are served in  shops with the salutation 'alright my love' in a soft burr as creamy as the local clotted variety.  

My daughter has been at University in Falmouth for two years and is already dreading the time, in only twelve months, when she will have to leave. Cornwall gets into your blood,from her flat on Falmouth high street, dozing in bed the last few mornings, hearing the sounds of the harbour coming through the open window, or mid afternoon buskers playing jazz, seagulls, late night revellers oh and did I mention the light? I fully understand her loathing to go from this place. Who could not love a place full of galleries  and artists, the sheer optimism of an open air theatre with the backdrop of the westerly setting sun?The Cornish love food, have always, despite Rich Stein, loved their fresh fish and crab, made ice cream to rival the best Italian gelati, cream teas and then there is the Pasty.  Jess lives for Pasties.....really I am quite serious....we had a chat and she happily said at any time of any day she has just eaten one, or is about to eat one or is thinking about the one she just ate or the one she will be eating soon!  She is still a size 8! Because as she points out, there are vegetables and lean meat and just a little bit of fat in the pastry, also Falmouth is full of hills and she has no car and walks EVERYWHERE! The traditionalist may well shudder at the new incarnation of the pasty, but things have to change with the times and not everyone likes beef and potato.....so bring on tomato, basil and brie, chicken, or my newly discovered favourite root vegetables and Stilton.... this had the wonderful addition of beetroot, delicious! The Pasty was made by Cornish women to feed their men, be they miners, fishermen or farmers, the thick crust was used to hold onto whilst eating to prevent contamination from tin dust or dirt. It is said the sign of a good pasty is one that can be thrown down a mine shaft and still be fit to eat! They are made all over the world, but nothing can beat the taste of a freshly purchased pasty eaten whilst dangling your feet over the harbour wall!

I am including a recipe for Cornish Pasties,it is an amazingly adaptable form of food, perfect for picnics, lunch boxes, Saturday lunchtime with salad or midwinter with soup. The basic pastry  shell can be filled with whatever takes your fancy, think samosas, pierogi, every country has some version of the pasty. The trick is to chop the vegetables up quite small so they will cook to a perfect tenderness the 30 minutes or so oven time. If using beef it really must be skirt, the flour can be strong and I think a mixture of butter and white vegetable fat (or lard if you have no aversion) makes the best pastry. Remember never carrot in the traditional pasty, everything is layered NOT mixed, seasoned well with salt and pepper, and if you are feeling flush a spoon of clotted cream or butter for added richness and flavour! For non traditional fillings it is trial and error until you get just what you like. Nothing too wet, or dry and always rest the pastry for a time otherwise disaster may well strike (be advised) Don't listen too much to 'The Cornish Pasty Society' about sacrilege, you are cooking at home and you can do as you please! And I should point them to the 1929 cookery book http://www.cornishpasties.org.uk/1929-pasty-recipes.htm that showed no less that 15 different recipes from the ladies of Cornwall....so go ahead don't be precious, maybe you too could try the Rabbity, Star-gazing or Jam Pasty....or invent your own...no thrifty lady of Cornwall would ever let a glut pass or a belly go hungry if a Pasty could be made!
The Traditional Cornish Pasty This recipe is for 4 good sized Cornish Pasties
1. Pastry
500 gms strong bread flour (It is important to use a stronger flour than normal as you need the extra strength in the gluten to produce strong pliable pastry.  120 gms white shortening
 25 gms cake margarine (I use butter)
 5 gms salt
 175 gms cold water
Mix fat lightly into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. (this can be done in a food processor)
Add water and beat in a food mixer until pastry clears and becomes elastic. This will take longer than normal pastry but it gives the pastry the strength that is needed to hold the filling and retain a good shape.
Leave to rest for 3 hours in a refrigerator, this is a very important stage as it is almost impossible to roll and shape the pastry when fresh
2. Filling 450 gms good quality beef eg. skirt  450 gms potato
 250 gms Swede
 200 gms onion
 Salt & pepper to taste( 2/1 ratio)
Clotted cream or butter (optional) Chop the above finely then add to the rolled out circles of pastry raw. Layer the vegetables and meat adding plenty o f seasoning. Put your dollop of cream or a knob of butter on top. Then bring the pastry around and crimp together. Try practicing on a potato first or just flatten like a turnover and mark with a fork. Crimping is the secret to a true Cornish pasty but it really has to be taught it is almost impossible to describe. HANDY HINTS Ensure that all your veg is freshly prepared Never attempt to add carrot, this is sacrilege!!
Use a good cut of BEEF eg. skirt. This is the underside of the belly of the animal. Its juice produces wonderful gravy, has no fat or gristle and cooks in the same amount of time as the raw vegetables.
Butter or cream gives the pasty that extra richness.
 Cooking time and temperature
 Gas No6 approx 50 min-1 hour
Electric 210 approx 50min-1 hour  Fan assisted 165 approx 40 mins Posted by Picasa
 Always use a firm waxy potato such as Maris pier or Wilja.
 Put in plenty of seasoning.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the world of blogging Andrea! I love you recipe and I'll definitely be following your blog. Margie