Ever since we visited Cornwall earlier this year, we have been waiting for cooler weather to bake up our own version of the iconic pasty (pronounced PAST-ee). This week, a chill finally blew in and we had a winter squash from the farmers' market and a craving for buttery shortcrust...
We should probably get this out of the way first: these aren't traditional Cornish pasties, and we hope not to be chastised by the pasty police! For a humble little (or large, as the case may be) hand pie, the pasty engenders much passion and controversy. The national dish of Cornwall, where it was the staple of 19th century working men, the pasty is frequently the subject of debate – from the proper cut of the vegetables inside (cubed or sliced?) to the correct placement of the crimped edge (side or top?). We were amused and inspired to learn that there's even a "pasty activist," as described in a recent feature in The Economist.
True Cornish pasties are filled with beef, potatoes, and turnips, which are never cooked first, as they're meant to steam inside the shortcrust pastry as it bakes. A complete meal on their own, pasties may be eaten hot or at room temperature on the go. Some consider them the original fast food. While this newfangled vegetarian version probably wouldn't earn any points from Cornish miners, we do hope you'll find it a savory and sustaining dish that's easy to carry for lunch or delicious at dinner.
Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan Pasties
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
6-8 tablespoons ice water
8 ounces butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes
1 medium red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Freshly ground white pepper (or black)
1 egg, beaten
To make dough
Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or knife, cut butter into flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time, gently tossing between additions, until the dough just holds together. Shape dough into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
Before rolling out the dough, let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. On a lightly floured surface, roll it out to 1/8-inch thick. Cut out two circles using a plate or bowl as a guide.
To make pasties
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, onion, garlic, sage, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.
Spoon mixture over half of each dough round, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle well with salt and pepper.
Moisten the edges of the dough with beaten egg. With cool hands, fold the pastry over and crimp the edges. (Use any crimping technique you like, just make sure it is well sealed. For the traditional Cornish method, see this YouTube video.) Cut a small slit in the top of each pasty. Brush all over with beaten egg.
Bake until golden and cooked through, about 40 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
(Images: Emily Ho)