In the past, pasties were a complete meal – meat, potatoes and gravy – cooked up all nice and snug in an edible pastry container
They were a great meal on the run, a worker’s lunch beyond compare, and were eminently suitable for miners and such like because they could be eaten in their entirety without fuss and ceremony (sans cutlery).
2 x 400g (14 oz) good-quality ready-made blocks puff pastry (or an 800g/1¾ lb slab)
500g (a good 1 lb) floury potatoes, peeled and cubed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp butter, plus extra for leeks
¼ cup cream
3 leeks, trimmed, halved and well rinsed
¼ cup dry white wine
1 large carrot, peeled and diced (should yield 1 cup diced carrot)
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 cup flaked smoked fish
1 small (size 5) free-range egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp water
1 Roll out each block of pastry thinly and cut 4 rounds, 14cm (5”) in diameter, from each. Stack scraps and re-roll. Cut out another 2 rounds from each piece. Lightly roll rounds to make them slightly oval shaped, so they will be long enough to fold over the filling. Stack on a plate interleaved with waxed or baking (parchment) paper, cover with food wrap and refrigerate until the filling has been made and cooled.
2 Put potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, salt generously, then bring to a gentle boil. Lower heat and cook gently until tender. Drain potatoes, then return them to the pan and set pan back over heat for 30 seconds to drive off any clinging water.
3 Tip potatoes into a large bowl and sprinkle with ½ a teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Dot with 1 tablespoon of butter and pour over cream. Semi-mash potatoes with a large fork – don’t turn them into a purée, but don’t leave any lumps larger than a small walnut.
4 Chop leeks and transfer to a medium-sized frying pan (skillet) with a large knob of butter. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, until wilted and lightly coloured. Pour in wine, lower heat to minimum and cook for 10 minutes.
5 Put diced carrot in a small saucepan, cover with cold water and salt lightly. Bring to the boil, then cook gently for 10 minutes, until tender. Drain, refresh with cold water, then wrap in a double thickness of paper towels and gently squeeze to absorb excess water. Add to potatoes with leek, parsley and smoked fish.
6 Preheat oven to 190°C (fanbake), or 200°C regular oven (400°F). Line a baking sheet (tray) with baking (parchment) paper.
7 Working with one pastry round at a time, put a large spoonful of mixture on pastry, keeping it in from the edge. Brush edge of pastry with a little water and bring the slightly longer ends up to meet in the middle. Press edges together, then crimp with your fingers. Prick pasties several times with a fine skewer near crimped top. Make up the rest of the pasties, then transfer to prepared baking sheet. If the pastry is soft and limp, chill pasties for 15 minutes.
8 Brush pasties with egg wash. Bake for about 25 minutes in preheated oven, or until a good golden brown.
These are not the sort of thing you can whip up at short notice, unless you want to have a go at filling the pasties with leftover cooked or roasted vegetables (nothing wrong with improvising). Allow plenty of time to roll the pastry and shape the pasties.
The pasties are delicious while still warm, but they’re not half bad at room temperature.
Photography Aaron McLean http://www.aaronmclean.com