April 21, 2013
When I was growing up most of my weekends were spent out at dad's where we'd often be found in the kitchen, cooking this or baking that. Summer was always more fun outdoors, but as the cooler months set in there was no better room for retreat. With the slow-combustion stove crackling away in the corner and some inappropriate opera, or maybe Van Morrison, crooning over the stereo it was cosy and comforting, our favourite place to be. This wasn't so much a tradition, just something that we both enjoyed doing. Our way in which two quiet people communicated without words.
There were of course some regular favourites, and come winter pasties were always on high rotation with their piping hot filling and golden crust covered in sauce. They were the perfect accompaniment to a dreary afternoon, and with the rain battering down against the lounge room window we'd settle onto the couch with our plates, the open fire roaring, and football on the radio or t.v.
I don't know where the recipe came from, but from memory it involved slabs of store-bought puff pastry rolled out and filled with a mixture of fried onions and beef mince, boiled carrots and potatoes, perhaps a little Worcestershire sauce, and of course a handful of frozen peas.
Having to take charge of my own kitchen now I've come to realise that these were nothing like a true Cornish, and since we're coming back into the perfect weather for it, I finally decided to give the traditional version a go.
The pastry, which uses a mixture of fats, holds well and has the most wonderful flavour thanks to the predominance of lard, while a little bit of butter helps to keep it flaky and light. Unlike my childhood version it is filled raw - a simple combination of beef skirt (or in my case, bavette), onion, potato and swede - baked hot to first make them golden, and then slow to ensure that everything is cooked through.
The vegetables despite being beautifully fluffy still hold their shape, and since there is little else to distract the tastebuds, the flavour of the beef really shines through. Add a side of homemade tomato ketchup and these pasties are indeed lovely, but I found that they were even better without, and were a far cry from those that we whipped up when I was a kid. And so, as far as family traditions go, I suspect it may be time we freshened things up.
As luck would have it, rather than rain we ended up having a delightfully sunny afternoon. But the footy was still on and the couch was still free, and if dad were here to sit down and share one, I'm certain he would have approved.