The Traditional Cornish Pasty
What Is A Cornish Pasty?A Cornish Pasty is a semi-circular "pie" for one person which is made with plain pastry. The contents are usually - but not always - savoury. It is sometimes spelt as "pastie". The pasty was traditionally called an oggy, derived from the Conish word "hoggan". This might be the origin of the chant: "Oggy! Oggy! Oggy! Oi! Oi! Oi!".
The Cornish Pasty originated as a lunchtime meal to be eaten hot or cold by workmen such as fishermen and miners. Each pasty was often marked with the initials of the man to whom it belonged.
RecipesThe pasty filling usually consisted of a combination of meat and vegetables, the exact recipes varying according to the seasonal avalability of ingredients and the wealth of the family concerned. Today of course you can buy all manner of exotic variations on the basic recipe including vegetarian pasties.
It has been said that pasties were sometimes baked with savoury ingredients in one end and sweet ones in the other to provide a two-course lunch.
As you can see, all sorts of ingredients can go into Cornish Pasties. There is a legend that the Devil himself was scared to enter Cornwall in case the locals baked him into a pasty!
The miners regularly took their pasties with them down the mine. The approach of fishermen to pasties in the workplace is uncertain. Some would only eat pasties on shore, believing it unlucky to take a pasty on board ship. Perhaps they feared that the denizens of the deep would be attracted by such a feast?
Today the pasty makes a great item for a picnic basket.
For the modern eater I do not recommend cooking Cornish Pasties in the microwave - this tends to result in the pastry being unpleasantly soggy and the filling shrinking.
The CrimpCornish Pasties all have a distinctive "crimp" where the edges of the pasty are joined together. This is simply dry pastry and not very pleasant to eat. Since the crimp is larger than strictly necessary for baking purposes, why is it there?
The crimp was apparently used as a "handle" to hold the pie. The fishermen or miners would probably have filthy hands and were unlikely to have a supply of lemon soaked paper napkins! Hence they could hold the pasty by the crimp whilst eating then later discard the dry pastry - possibly leaving it for the Knockers in the mine.
There has been a great deal of debate about the position of the crimp - should it be at the side or along the top? Which is best? Well, from a taste perspective it makes little difference.
A top crimp is more aesthetically pleasing and generally results in less wasted dry pastry. However from a practical perspective eating such a top crimp pie would have been more difficult when down a mine. Personally I favour the side crimp when I buy a pasty, simply because that's the type with which I'm most familiar.
Incidentally, for a totally non-traditional but delicious pasty try the Waitrose Steak and Stilton Pasty eaten hot - gorgeous! Needless to say, it has the crimp in the side.