Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Emily's Beef Pasties

Not quite sandwich, not quite pie.

Although I'm not sure I can say I'm a huge fan of meat pies - I don't think I've eaten nearly enough of them to really consider myself an expert, anyway - I do really enjoy things like chicken or turkey pot pies, and have always been quite interested in the concept of savory pies, and especially hand pies. They're not that common in the United States, but they're quite popular in other countries, especially those with a history of English occupation. I've often wondered why that is, and I've also been enthusiastic about making one for myself.

This recipe turned out to be extremely tasty, and I've already got a lot of requests to make them again. While it turned out to be a pretty time consuming dish to make, I can't say that was enough of a turn off to turn down those requests! Read on to hear more!

I don't think it's going to surprise anyone when I say it's been pretty cold around these parts lately, so it's been fun coming up with some nice warm recipes to make. There are a lot of different versions of beef pasties out there, but the recipe we're using comes from Food Network and seemed pretty basic. Pasties are particularly associated with Cornwall, England, although the recipe we're using isn't an authentic Cornish Pasty and no one actually knows where the first pasty was made. Much like macaroni and cheese, this dish was initially something enjoyed by the upper class, but eventually became associated with the working class. The oldest official recipe for a pasty comes from 1510, but they've been mentioned in text as far back as the 1300's!

Obviously this isn't an authentic World War II era recipe, and I know I keep saying that about Emily posts and someday I promise we'll do something authentic. I even have a book full of war time English recipes from the Imperial War Museum in London, it's just that in flipping through it, most of them look... pretty horrifying. Let's just say I'm not a fan of organ meat.

Anyway, the original recipe said it was going to make eight pasties, and since there were only four of us here for dinner tonight, we decided to cut the recipe in half. It still turned out to make way too much filling, but considering this was such a success, that's probably a good thing. Now we can have some more tomorrow!

As you can see, I like my bacon extra crispy. I was a little concerned that having this much bacon in the filling would make this taste more like a bacon pasty than a beef one, but it actually blended in pretty well without being overpowering.

We cooked the meat first and set it aside to cook the vegetables. My one major complaint with this recipe is that it says it only takes 25 minutes of prep time, but I feel like that's only true if you either have all the vegetables and maybe even the meat pre-cooked, because prepping and cooking everything more or less individually took way longer than just under half an hour.

On the plus side, I got to use some of the rest of the peas I had left over from the mint peas we made the other day.

So all in all, the cooking is pretty uneventful, if a little bit of a pain because you can't necessarily just throw everything into one pan. We did consider doubling up the bacon and the beef, but I didn't really want the two of them to end up tasting exactly the same and at that point didn't know that the bacon wasn't as powerful or overwhelming as I was expecting it to be.

It asked for a pretty interesting combination of spices and seasoning for a savory dish, and while the nutmeg ended up being pretty subtle, the ginger and pepper paired up really nicely together to give the filling a nice kick to it.

And now came the other part of the recipe that slightly irritated me in terms of bad wording: how to get the puff pastry shells folded up nice and neatly for the oven. The recipe didn't have a great example picture of what it should wind up looking up like, and there are a couple ways you can take both corners and fold it over the filling, as you'll see below because we ended up trying out three different techniques to get them bundled up. I liked the last one we tried the best.

Just to be safe, I slashed some vents in the other two to make sure they didn't explode in the oven, and while one of them in particular came out looking a little homely, the different folding techniques didn't effect the taste or people's ability to enjoy the pasty.

Still, I'm pretty sure in the future, I'm going to use the technique that comes with the premade vent.

The recipe said to leave them in the oven for 20 or 25 minutes, but ours definitely needed the extra five minutes to really puff up the rest of the pastry, it looked just a little undercooked when I pulled it out the first time, and undercooked pastry is gross.

I was really curious to see how easy these were going to be to eat without a fork and knife because they're supposed to be more of a hand pie than anything else, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that they held their shape really well both when being picked up and bitten into. That said, the puff pastry is definitely super flaky, so you might get some crumbs on you and your hands if you try it that way.

I'm also pleased to announce that the filling wasn't dry at all coming out of the oven, and continued being super tasty and flavorful. Really, I have zero complaints about this recipe beyond the fact that it took longer than I thought it would to get everything ready, and prepping everything in advance was kind of a pain. Next time, I might get frozen carrots and onions to help speed the process along.

On top of that, even though we split the recipe, we've got a lot of filling left over, so we might be going to the store to get some more puff pastry to make good use of that.

Seriously, I know what I'm eating for lunch tomorrow.

Now, while this was super tasty and I'd be happy to make it again, we've already started wondering how we can tweak and customize the recipe to make some fun spins on it. My mom thought it could be fun to add some Indian spices and swap the beef out for chicken or more potatoes to make something more like a samosa and man, I feel pretty confident in saying I want to go to there. This promises to be a fun, tasty recipe to add to our usual rotation!

Now if only AG would hurry up and make an Indian American girl...


  1. I love little pies like these! I also think they would make great samosas, which I also love. I've been thinking about them making an Indian American Girl too because my uncle recently married an Indian girl and I've been exposed to the culture more. Since you majored in history, do you know what time period she could be from? I'm not really familiar with when they started arriving in the US.

    1. Samosas are pretty much my favorite things in the entire world, although I say that about a lot of food ahaha.

      Hmmm to be honest, I don't know all that much about Indian immigration to the US. :|a I know there were definitely Asian Indians in the country relatively soon after the revolution, but I think there wasn't as big a population of Indians in America as say, the Irish or Chinese because yay racism. :\ Thanks to the Asian Exclusion acts, I wouldn't be shocked if immigration to the US was pretty restrictive until maybe the late 40's because that's when a lot of the acts started getting overturned, so I would guess immigration would pick up in the 50's and 60's. Personally, I'm a little biased towards the 60's, but with some research you could probably make it earlier if that's more modern than you were hoping, I just don't know too much about what the situation before the repeal of those acts would be aside from the fact that it's probably not the happiest story in American history. I hope you keep us updated on how it's going if you do decide to go for it!