The 24th February to 2nd March is officially Cornish Pasty week. In fact on the 2nd of March it is the World Pasty Championships at the Eden Centre.
What is a Cornish Pasty?
Pasties are pies, in that the meat and veg (traditionally, more on that later) is encased in pastry. In the case of a Cornish Pasty this must be a circle of pastry folded over and crimped together along the edge forming the traditional crescent shape.
The History Bit
Cornish pastoes go way back to the 13th century when they were the provence of rich people. They would be filled with seafood, beef, veneson, lamb or even eels in a rich gravy. It was not until this kind of eating had gone out of favour with the upper classes and in the 17th and 18th century that the Cornish pasty became the food of the workers.
They were the perfect filling lunch for miners who were working all day in dreadful conditions underground. In many cases the pastry of the pasty would be there as a lunch box and could be so hard it could survive falling down a mine shaft! You see these were lead mines and the lead on the hands of the miners touching the outer pastry would make it poisonous which is why it would be discarded. If you wrapped your pasty in a cloth you could eat the casing as well.
What's in it?
Traditionally the pasty should contain no less than 25% meat with the rest of the filling made up of potatoes, onions and swede. This filling would actually be cooked inside the pastry casing so all the juices came together as a gravy.
Of course other filllings are possible, anything goes really as long as you are not sticking to the traditional recipe. Some pasties (even back in the mines) would have the savoury filling at one end and a piece of pastry in the centre creating a division and in the other half would be dried fruit, apple or anything sweet as a dessert. The outer pastry casing would be marked so you know which end to bite into first!