The Folklore Food Blog: Pasties

pasties
It was a bleak day for Cornwall, and only Francis Godolphin, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall and commander of the militias along with twelve of his soldiers stood to offer any kind of resistance against the coming Spanish invaders.
Acting fast, he sent the women and children to shelter in the tin mines; stoke the ovens to bake pasties, and to roust the Knockers. Knockers were sprites who lived in the mines, and were believed to cause havoc and misfortune unless they were bribed with small amounts of food. He proffered, if the Knocker’s wanted extra pasties, they had a job to do; deliver a message to Carlos de Amesquita the commander of the Spaniards to beware if he dared to land; a Cornish women’s inclination was to turn anything astray into a tasty pastie filling!
The Knocker’s agreed, their hunger for Spanish pasties was insatiable.
Amesquita a man of faith called the Knocker’s devils minions, and vowed to hold traditional Catholic mass on English soil before the days end to rid it of evil.
Godolphin held the common belief; to have pasties on board a ship brought bad tidings. And if they were made of fish it was doubly bad luck.  A truism stemming from local miners who claimed fish in a mine shaft was unduly cruel.
The women baking the pasties knew what to do, arsenic commonly accompanies tin within the ore
They seasoned the pasties well, and added fish to cover the smell, decorating them that no man could resist.
Godolphin’s men prepared the cannons.
Amesquita’s ships appeared on the horizon.
Godolphin commanded his men to hold their fire until they could see the twists of Amesquita’s mustache and loaded the still hot pasties into the cannons.
Shouting, “Oggie, Oggie, Oggie!” His men fired.
Pasties flew, hitting their mark.
Amesquita’s men laughed, was this the best Godolphin could do, a food fight? Tempted by the the pasties beauty the Spaniards ate, marveling at the flavors of the fillings; savory on one end and sweet on the other.
Soon terror gripped the Spaniards as several midshipmen began to hyper-salivate and buckle over from abdominal pain. They fell to the deck, dead. Amesquita was forced to give up his attack and move on to Paul and Newlyn. Godolphin stood triumphant over Cornwall, where he was reminded not to forget to pay the troublesome Knockers.

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE SHORT-CRUST PASTRY:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces lard or vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons cold water

Note: I have tried various combinations of lard, shortening and butter. My personal favorite is 3 ounces to 4 ounces ice cold bacon grease. The combination of butter and bacon grease to me is the most flavorful.
For the pastry: Sift the flour, and salt into a mixing bowl and add the butter and lard. Using your fingers, squeeze the butter and lard into the dry ingredients until mixture resembles fine crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and water together and add to the flour mixture. Mix quickly, but thoroughly, until mixture just comes together to form a dough. Knead briefly until pastry is smooth with no cracks; the trick to making this delicate pastry easy to work with is kneading it just enough so that it can be rolled out and manipulated without breaking but yet retains its crumbly texture. Press into a flattened disk shape and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight before proceeding.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and unwrap. Allow to soften slightly, then place on a lightly floured work surface and roll the pastry to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Using a small plate or saucer as a guide, cut out 6 (6-inch) rounds. (Scraps may be combined and reformed if you cannot get 6 rounds out of the first batch.) Stack the pastry rounds onto pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper (with pieces between each round to keep them from sticking together) and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

FOR THE FILLING:
10 ounces skirt steak, trimmed and cut into scant 1/4-inch dice
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 small potato, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove the pastry circles from the refrigerator. In a mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients.   Place the pastry circles on a clean work surface and place about 1/2 cup of the filling in the center of 1 side of the pastry. Using the beaten egg, brush the edges of the pastry and then bring the unfilled side over the filled side so that edges meet. Press edges together to seal and then crimp using your fingers or a fork. Repeat with the remaining turnovers and then transfer to a baking sheet. Brush the tops of the turnovers with the remaining egg and then cut several slits into the top of each pastry. Bake for 20 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown around the edges. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and continue to bake until the pasties are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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