Mmmm, pasties. Those free-form meat pies – basically beef stew sealed in a pastry shell – have a long heritage of sustaining coal miners, farmers, and other laborers. They were baked in the morning and carried off to work for a simple, hearty lunch. The really fancy ones, we’re told, had the meat mixture in one end and an apple filling in the other, so you had the main course and dessert all rolled into one. Whether or not they actually originated in Cornwall, England, many people call them Cornish pasties.
We don’t get a lot of call for pasty recipes, but you can make the pastry by mixing 4 cups of flour, a tablespoon of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and using a pastry blender to cut in 1-3/4 cups of butter or vegetable shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix an egg, 1/2 cup water, and a tablespoon of white vinegar together in a separate bowl and then add that to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, divide it into six portions and roll each out to form an 8-inch circle.
Meanwhile, dice two pounds of round steak or boneless chuck roast, 2 or 3 medium-size potatoes (peeled), a turnip, a carrot, and a small onion and mix with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Divide the filling among the dough circles, spooning the filling onto one side of each. Fold the dough over the filling, moisten with water and join the two edges together, pinching the dough to seal it. Cut a slit in the top of each pasty and place them on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until the crust is golden, 50 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
We made pasties once for a school fair – we multiplied the recipe by a factor of 18 or 20 to be sure we had enough for the masses – and had an enormous roasting pan full of the filling. We’re still not sure we ever need to see another pasty.
And by the way, if you pronounce it PASS-ty and give people a knowing look when you say it, you’ll have almost as much fun as when you eat asparagus with your fingers at a fancy dinner.