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Traditional Cornish Pasty (or Tiddy Oggy)

History and Folklore-Cornwall


The Cornish pasty is the original hand-held convenience food with a pedigree that dates back to the Middle Ages. In the 13th and 14th centuries, pasties were filled with venison, beef, lamb, salmon and lampreys (eels), dressed with rich gravies and sweetened with dried fruits. It was a high table dish enjoyed almost exclusively by royalty and the upper classes.

The pasty became synonymous with Cornwall some 500 years later, thanks largely to the development of tin and copper mining in the county. Filled with beef, potatoes, onion and turnip, the pasty was a highly portable, well-insulated and nutritious meal ideally suited to the gruelling conditions underground. Some miners would have a pasty with a sweet course at one end - containing apple, jam or treacle.

When Cornish miners emigrated to work in the USA, Australia, South Africa and South America they took their pasty-making skills with them. The tradition continues to this day in many former mining boom towns and cities.

Three million pasties are produced in Cornwall every week with ninety per cent of them sold outside the county. Efforts are being made to give the Cornish pasty protected status under European law. It would prevent producers outside the county from calling their pasties 'Cornish'. Home bakers argue their pasties are vastly superior to their commercial counterparts. Opinions vary considerably however on whether to crimp on the top or the side of a pasty, to slice or dice meat and vegetables and to use glazed or un-glazed pastry. The debate all adds to the pasty's appeal and charm. Like the Scottish kilt, or the Welsh dragon it has become a strong symbol of Cornwall - an edible cultural icon famous throughout the world.


There is as much folklore around the Cornish Pasty as there are recipe variations. One such tale said it was bad luck for fishermen to take a pasty on board a boat, but then again I know a modern day skipper that 'loves his pasties'. A very famous photograph from the Nineteenth Century shows a group of tin miners at 'Crost Time', (meal time), tucking into very large pasties. Such pasties would have meat at one end and a fruit filling at the other.


Whatever the truth there is no doubt that the pasty formed an important part of many working Cornishman's diet, miners, farmers, or fishermen. With the decline of the mining industry in Cornwall many Cornishmen were forced to emigrate, as far a field as the USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa taking their pasty recipe's with them.


Though the recipe below uses short-crust pastry, many people prefer flaky pastry, being lighter on the stomach.





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