Cornwall: The cream of protected pasties

By Jim Eagles

Jim Eagles discovers the tasty secrets of Cornwall's most famous, EU-recognised delicacy.

Jim Eagles puts the finishing touch to a Cornish Pasty at the Chough Bakery at Padstow. Photo / Chris Eagles
Jim Eagles puts the finishing touch to a Cornish Pasty at the Chough Bakery at Padstow. Photo / Chris Eagles

It's good to know when journalism runs out there's always a job for me crafting award-winning genuine Cornish pasties in the lovely Cornish lobster fishing port of Padstow.

I went to Padstow hoping to find out what makes a genuine Cornish pasty - a name that has just been given Protected Geographical Indication status by the European Union - truly genuine.

I've eaten plenty of pasties and thought of them as differently shaped meat pies. But the EU's official recognition of Cornish pasties - along with other delicacies such as Melton Mowbray pork pies, Gorgonzola cheese and Arbroath smokies - suggests they are special.

As my wife and I cruised round Cornwall, savouring the scenery dotted with those fascinating old mine towers and ancient fortifications, we found pasty shops in almost every village.

But we also noticed the pasties didn't all look the same and not all the shops had the Cornish Pasty Association seal of approval. So which were the real pasties?

To answer that question, the pasty association sent me to Padstow and the Eade family's multi-award-winning Chough Bakery.

Louisa Eade, a delightful Cornish lass with a beaming smile, explained the history of the Cornish pasty goes back into the mists of time - the earliest written recipe dates from 1510 - but is traditionally associated with the local tin-mining industry.

"It was probably the first complete takeaway meal, with a good mix of vegetables and a bit of meat and sometimes even some jam or fruit at one end as dessert," she said.

"The filling was in a pastry case with a thick crust along one side to give the miners something to hold on to if their hands were dirty."

As a bonus, the leftover crust could be offered to the Knockers, the ghosts of dead miners, to keep them happy.

The Eade pasties follow "my granny's recipe", which means, as well as the usual vegetables and meat, there's a knob of Cornish clotted cream.

"It isn't in the traditional recipe but Granny always used it and it adds a bit of extra richness and flavour."

Louisa asked: "Would you like to make one for yourself?"

After nodding enthusiastically, I watched closely as she deftly created a perfectly shaped pasty.

"On busy days in summer, we make 1000 to 1500 and sometimes even 2000 a day," she said. "It usually takes me two to three minutes."

I think it took me 15.

I had to pull a slab of pastry into an oval which could be folded over into the classic D-shape. Next I filled one side with chunks of swede, potato and onion, with some skirt steak on top. A bit of salt and some extra pepper - and the secret knob of clotted cream.

Now for the tricky bit; bending the pastry over the filling and crimping the edges together, folding small sections over each other to create the handle down the edge.

Surprisingly, I did it rather well. Louisa thought the same.

"That's very good. Would you like a job? Come back next summer and we'll take you on. You can have all the pasties you can eat."

Our two pasties were put into the oven for a long, slow cook. The smell was marvellous and my stomach rumble got louder. Finally, Louisa pronounced them done.

We took our pasties outside, found a seat on the harbour wall, and bit in hungrily. Delicious.

Without doubt, these two Cornish pasties would be approved by the EU any day.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Emirates flies three times daily from Auckland to Dubai, with direct connections on to London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow.

Where to stay: Boscastle House is a superb B&B in the Cornish coastal town of Boscastle.

Cornish pasties: The Cornish Pasty Association has the details about the history and heritage of the Cornish Pasty. Also see the Chough Bakery website.

Further information: For more about visiting the UK click here.

Jim Eagles made a pasty with help from Emirates and Visit Britain.

- NZ Herald

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