Monday, May 28, 2012

Cornish Pasties internationalize

Photo: Cornish culture

A contemporary version of the Cornish pasty contains chicken and chorizo. According to the ads, it's "baked with authentic Spanish spices (no bull)" and advertised as a "limited edition."

On his website, gourmet chef Jamie Oliver showcases a Montana version, the Cornish Cowboy pasty, which involves cornmeal or polenta in the pastry, and butternut squash in the dough.

The West Cornwall Pasty Co. has shops all over the UK, including the big railway stations. More traditional wares include Steak and Ale, Steak and Stilton, Lamb and Mint, Pork and Apple.

In recent years, though, pasties have expanded well beyond these options, and past the predictable Cheese and Mushroom or Cheese and Onion. How about Chicken Balti, with a curry flavour, Vegetable Provencal or Salmon? Hungry yet?

The very best traditional Cornish pasty I ever ate came from a small local stand in Bristol Temple Meads station. If you want the original, go to the source -- or closer to the source, in this case.

I've enjoyed some great variations in London too. A memorable version came from a shop near Victoria Station. While the traffic was stopped, waiting for the Queen to pass (yes, truly), I decided to lunch on a quick asparagus and chicken pastry envelope. It was fresh, hot and delectable. So was the tea.

Recently I was served a pasty baked on site by a native speaker of Russian. I devoured it hot in the vast chilly cavern of St. Pancras Station, with the train platforms behind me, the new glass wall in front, decked with its antique clock, Olympic logo and, near the far wall, the Paul Day sculpture.

Indeed, the Cornish pasty has come a long way, and it's lighter and fluffier than ever. The original pastry was made stodgy on purpose. The miners, who had no way to wash their hands at lunchtime, used one thick corner of the pastry as a handle to grasp their pies. And of course they needed food that would to stick to the ribs and get a man through a long day of labour.

The traditional pasty was hearty; the thick crust held onion, potato, chunks of steak, and swede (yellow turnip).

Photo: Old St. Pancras overlaid by new, with Paul Day statue visible at bottom CT 2012

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