The Cornish Pasty has a load of hilarious (sorry Cornish folk!) dialectal names, it’s also known as a tiddy, teddy, oggy, hoggan or oggin. There is even a chant Oggy Oggy Oggy - Oi Oi Oi! that goes hand in hand with pasties. Pasty sellers or tin miners wives would should down the mines Oggy, Oggy, Oggy and the miners would shout back Oi, Oi, Oi! That way the miners would know there was someone with a nice hot pasty at the surface. It’s turned into a sports chant of late though - someone should really tell them they are shouting about pasties.
Since those of us that live outside Cornwall are most likely not going to be able to call them Cornish Pasties much longer, I’m going to call mine Vege Oggins. The Cornish Pasty Association (who knew there was one??!) has applied for protected status for the Cornish pasty and only pasties from Cornwall will be able to be truly called a Cornish Pasty. I wonder if they sit around and eat pasties at their monthly meetings?
The Cornish Pasty has a rich and interesting history and folklore that surrounds it. Who would have thought that so many stories could have built up around a little bit of pastry? Wikipedia has a rather large page all about the Cornish Pasty.
They originated as a kind of lunch for the working folk and tin miners made by their wives; they were a two course meal all in one. They often had something sweet like apple or jam at one end and the savoury filling (normally steak, potatoes, swede and onions) at the other. The pasties were marked with the miners initials so there would be no chance of eating the wrong pasty by mistake! They would stay warm for hours if popped in a pocket and kept close to the miners body, so they were still able to have a warm lunch.
The Pasty was held by the crimp so as not to contaminate the food with dirty hands. The miners were mining for tin, copper and arsenic so you really didn’t want to get that in your lunch! The crust was discarded for the Knockers - the spirits that lived in the mines. If you didn’t give it to them, no doubt you would have bad luck. They were thought to be the spirits of miners that died in the mines, and it was important to respect them. Pasties were also considered bad luck on a boat, so don’t bother offering them to a Cornish sailor - they won’t want one. The ones that were brave enough to take a pasty on their boat would throw the crusts to the seagulls - they were thought to be the spirits of dead mariners.
Pasties have become popular all around the world, often with different countries adding their own local flavours. Cornish miners brought them to the US and to Mexico. In Australia and New Zealand they are pretty commonly seen sitting next to the meat pies and the sausage rolls in many bakeries and lunch bars. I have to say though that a store bought pasty here is just a shadow of a homebaked-with extra-love version. If there is a Kiwi shop out there that would like to prove me wrong and send me their pasties, I’ll be happy to taste test!
I made a traditional Pasty for the omnivores in the family. The Cornish Pasty Association are generous enough to provide a traditional recipe and a video. I also wanted to make a vegetarian version, so a little improvisation was in order. It’s an easy meal all in one and the fillings are really flexible. Although the traditional filling of meat and veges is the most common, there were also other fillings that were eaten, egg and currant, bacon and egg, or what ever the miners’ wives had on hand to pop inside a substantial piece of pastry. So a vegetarian pasty is not complete blasphemy. This one is made with a mixture of sweet potato and mushrooms. Use this recipe as a base to try out your own flavour combinations.
Vege Oggins - Vegetarian Cornish Pasties
Makes 4 Oggins
- 400g plain flour
- 200g butter or margarine, chilled and cubed (or you can substitute half with lard)
- A pinch of salt to season
- cold water to mix
You can make this by hand or in the food processor. I made this by hand since it generally gives a lighter flakier pastry. It does not take much longer than in the processor.
Place your flour, salt and butter in a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add in your water a tablespoon at a time and mix until it comes together into a flexible
pastry. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.
While your pastry is chilling prepare your filling.
Sweet Potato and Mushroom Filling
- One medium sweet potato (Kumara) peeled and diced into 1cm dice (about 600-700g)
- 2 medium potatoes peeled & diced into 1 cm dice - about 500-600g
- 1 medium brown onion finely diced
- 1 large leek finely diced
- 200g of button mushrooms finely chopped
- 1 large shallot finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 3/4 tspn of salt
- 1 tspn of cajun seasoning
- good grinding of fresh black pepper
- 1 egg beaten for brushing on your Oggins
Mix all your veges and seasonings together in a large bowl - do not pre-cook.
Preheat your oven to 200C/392F
Take your pastry out of the fridge and divide into 4 evenly sized pieces.
If you would like to see a video of how to assemble a pasty there is a very good one here on the Cornish Pasty Association site.
Roll one piece out thickly and cut a circle roughly 20cm/ 8 inches in
diameter. I used a bread and butter plate as my template - these are
about the right size.
Spoon your filling into the centre of the pastry in a line leaving about an inch on each end with no filling. Mound up your filling a little.
Brush around the diameter of the circle with a little water to help the edges stick. Don’t be mean with the filling, make sure your Oggin is well filled, but that you can still get the edges together to close it.
Bring the sides of your pastry circle together in the centre and squeeze the edges together.
Place your Oggin on it’s side with the open side facing away from you and squeeze the edge together all the way along. You will have a half moon shape.
Crimp the edges together ensuring there are no holes for the filling to leak out of. Cut a small slit in the top for steam to release.
Brush with the beaten egg.
Place on a lightly greased baking tray.
Make your remaining Oggins.You might find that if you gather up the pastry scraps that you have enough for a fifth Oggin. They reheat well and are also very tasty cold.
Place the tray in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Turn down the oven to 180C/350F and bake for roughly a further 25-30 minutes.
They should be golden brown and smell absolutely delicious!
Serve with a green vegetable or salad on the side and you have a complete meal. If you are superstitious you might want to leave a crust somewhere for the Knockers….