One of my favourite places in the world is England, and one of my favourite parts of England is the West Country, or Cornwall. Dotted with old villages and steeped in tradition, the far west peninsula of old Blighty is more rustic and laid back than the mainland.
Steep cliffs line much of its coastline, many of which still host old, abandon tin mines – the perfect place for an impromptu picnic and an explore. Such occasions call for appropriate victuals, and one of my favourite meals in Cornwall (beside the obvious, cream tea with clotted cream) is the Cornish pasty (pronounced with a soft ‘a’).
Made most often with ground beef, potatoes, miscellaneous vegetables and cheese, they are like savoury, hand-held pies – or the British equivalent of a calzone. Rumour has it that the wives of tin miners started making them for their husbands’ lunches, with an extra wide crust so that they didn’t have to wash their hands before they ate. They could eat the pie up and then throw the part they were holding away.
I can’t get enough of them when I’m in Cornwall – and since it’s been about six years since I’ve had that pleasure, I started experimenting with making my own, using pie dough and whatever filling I could round-up in the fridge.
Here’s my recipe:
1 lb ground beef (we use Veggie Ground Round for a vegetarian alternative)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 C cut up broccoli florets, or chopped spinach
1 C grated cheese (we usually use marble cheddar, but if you splurge on stilton it is divine)
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 C all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 C butter
2/3 C ice water
Heat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, combine the beef, potatoes, onions, broccoli or spinach, cheese, salt and pepper.
Place flour, butter and salt in a large bowl. Combine with a pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas.
Add ice water and work with your hands until dough comes together, adding up to 4 more tablespoons of water, a spoonful at a time, if necessary. Pull apart into six balls.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each disk into a 10 inch circle. Divide filling between the circles. Fold in half into crescents and seal the edges together.
Cut or poke a few holes in the top to allow steam to escape, and bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until golden brown.
– Words and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier