One day, not too long ago, I texted Kris, one of my oldest friends, a photo of a cheese and onion pasty I had picked up at a cute little food shop near my house.
'Look!', I typed, excitedly. 'A delicious Cornish Pasty!'.
'That's not a Cornish Pasty', came the reply.
'Oh', I wrote, rather dejected. 'Then what am I eating?!?'
And here began Kris and my eventual foray into pasty making together.
You see, my friend Kris is from Cornwall, England where the Cornish Pasty is the region's fiercely loved official dish. The story goes, that the pasty was invented for the local tin miners because they could eat them, using the crust as a handle, without having to wash their hands. Kris told me that sometimes the pasties would be filled with meat in one half and jam in the other so the miners could have lunch and dessert all in one neat little edible package.
According to Wikipedia, the Cornish Pasty accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy, is the food most associated with Cornwall by the rest of the UK, and, in 2011 was awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status by the European Union. 'In order to receive the PGI status, the entire product must be traditionally and at least partially manufactured (prepared, processed OR produced) within the specific region and thus acquire unique properties'.
In other words, the people of Cornwall take their pasties VERY seriously.
Kris says that a traditional Cornish Pasty can be made with either a flaky crust or a shortcrust - it doesn't really matter because the pastry is not the main debate. Most discussion focuses on what should go inside the pasty - skirt/chuck/flank steak, potato, swede, onion, salt and pepper and that's it - and as Kris told me 'everyone's got an opinion'. When I ask about sauce he says, 'I usually put a bit of butter inside because who doesn't love a bit of butter?'.
'What about carrot?' I ask, thinking about my mum's delicious meat pies.
'It's wrong to put carrot in' says Kris.
'Why?', I ask.
'It's not traditional', he says.
Now, of couse, living in Nova Scotia means we can't actually make a TRUE Cornish Pasty, but we came damn close.
Kris and I drove to the Halifax Seaport Market on a sunny Saturday morning to pick up the ingredients for our pasties - potatoes, onions and turnip from Taproot Farms and a beautiful 1 pound skirt steak from Getaway Meat Mongers.
We used this recipe for the pastry except instead of 75g of shortening, we used 50g of shortening and 25g of butter.
We eyeballed the amount of steak, potato, onion and turnip. We diced each ingredient and mixed it all together with lots of salt and pepper.
Then we rolled out our pastry.
We cut the dough into large circles and filled them with the steak mixture. We topped our steak mix with a few knobs of butter and a sprinkle of flour for thickening.
We then sealed the edges of the pastry with a little water and tried to crimp the edges like we knew what we were doing. The one on the left is my attempt, the one on the right is Kris'. Hmmm...
Brush the top of each pasty with some beaten egg and then bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes, until deep golden brown all over.
No photograph will ever do justice to the moment when Kris and I sat down in his living room, him on the couch, me on the floor, both of us ooohing and aaaahing over each and every bite of our crisp, flaky, golden pasties.
I think the thing I love most is that, not only do I now have an amazing recipe to add to my collection, but, every time I make it for the rest of my life, I will think of my friend.