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Cooking with Tallyrand

CULINARY INFO - the pasty

102

pasty fact? pasty fiction?

I was asked by one of our overseas readers about the pasty. She commented that her recipe came from an Australian friend. Hmmmmm ..... a Cornish pasty recipe, from an Australian being cooked by an American, asking a Welshman who grew up in Devon ;-) 


Here are the facts? (or fiction), the legend that is the pasty. Feel free to add comments, agree, disagree, correct me as you see fit ........

  • the patron saint of the pasty is St Carantoc, a 6th century monk/abbot who was from Wales
  • the Scottish have a version that they call a bridie or forfar bridie
  • the Italians serve a folded pizza similar to a pasty called a calzone
  • the Cornish pasties are crimped on the side, the Devonshire pasty is crimped on the top
  • the reason the crimp is on the side, is that originally it was created as a meal for the (tin?) miners. The crimp was not meant to be eaten, but was a means for the miner to hold the pasty with their dirty hands
  • the crimp was discarded and left for "the knockers" - spirits said to inhabit the mines 
  • the initials of the miner were often placed in pastry at one end of the pasty, so they knew who's was who's come lunchtime
  • pasties should be eaten from end to end (not across like a corn cob) this way if it was only partly eaten the initials remained (which is a great idea but goes against the idea of for the crimp on the side : see above)
  • the edible pastry wouldn't have come into being until the 15th century, when it was introduced from Italy, via France
  • pasties go back as far as the 13th century, when the pastry was likely inedible and no more than a vessal in which to cook the food. (logical when you think about it, as it wouldnt have been anything more than flour and water or a paste : see above
  • a true Cornish pasty should be made with short pastry (no 16th century miner's wife would spend hours making puff pastry)
  • puff pastry was not created until the 17th century in France (probably by Chef Claude Gelee)
  • the Cornish pasty was originally more than likely made with fish and not meat, because fish was more easily obtained and cheaper
  • the Cornish pasty was originally savoury at one end (meat or fish) and sweet at the other (apple?) so the miner had a main course and dessert all in one 
  • originally the Cornish pasty meat was more likely to have been lamb rather than beef 
  • it is said a true Cornish pasty should contain meat, potato, onion and swede (or carrot) and arguments abound it. (I say given it was a peasants meal, originally it would contain whatever was available and seasonal)
  • the Cornish pasty is colloqually known as an "oggy" or "tiddy oggy"
  • the original Cornish name for a pasty is "hoggan" from which oggy is derived 
  • the word pasty is derived from pastry, which is derived from paste
  • Samuel Pepy's mentions pasties in his diaries in the 1660's
  • Shakespeare also was not immune to mentioning them - in act 1 of The Merry Wives of Windsor he wrote "come, we have a hot venison pasty to dinner, come gentleman, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness"
  • it is considered to take a pasty onboard a ship (along with a banana) 
  • the Cornish pasty has now been given Protected Geographical Status (like Champagne). Meaning only pasties made in Cornwall can be called Cornish Pasties 
  • in 2012 the UK Government introduced what became known as "the pasty tax" whereby any takeaway foods served hot were liable for V.A.T. (taxation) but if sold cold or cooling down (as in a pasty out of the oven) would not be liable for V.A.T. 

over to you? .........................................