I learned to make pasties in an emergency, I was summoned by my mother, Hettie Merrick, a professional pasty-maker, to a Breton agricultural fair, where demand was dramatically and unexpectedly outstripping supply at a stall mother had set up. At the end of a day of pasty-making, I could crimp them as fast as my mother, which was the perfect confidence boost and eye opener into the fact that there was a business to be had producing a good Cornish pasty.
Soon afterwards I began making pasties for my neighbours, who’d bring gifts of fresh fish they’d caught or vegetables they’d grown, and who treated my living room like a waiting room, sitting around gossiping over cups of tea if the pasties hadn’t come out of the oven yet.
Inspired by the response, mother and I started selling our wares from a stall at the nearby market town of Helston. We soon found business good enough to graduate to a shop in Porthleven. But when juggling family and pasty shop became too much, my husband transformed the garage of our house at the Lizard into a pasty kitchen, where I was able to crimp with one eye on the family.
You never talk of a “Cornish pasty” in Cornwall. It’s always pasty, pure and simple. The classic pasty comprises of turnip (referred to as swede outside of Cornwall), onion, beef and potato. Skirt of beef is the preferred cut of beef but chuck is fine cut up into small pieces.
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