Creative Traditional English Fare · 10 January 2007
Taking a Traditional English Idea and Making something that you’d want to A) eat and B) cook.
The trend in cooking precepts of modern times seems to be, how to make a traditional meal in the quickest time possible. The immense popularity of Rachel Ray and her 30 minute meals highlights the growing desire of people to return to home cooking, but not spend their entire evening doing it. The pendulum regarding cooking finally seems to be balancing out. We’ve gone from the traditional female role, where the woman works in the home, literally laboring over the cooking and the housework, to the revolution of the of the late 70’s and early 80’s where many women pursued power careers, yet felt pressured to take on the superwoman role and keep the household running in the same manner as if they were there full time, to the trend of the 90’s where it became okay to hire out, eat out, and generally outsource many of the chores, to today, where the focus is on balance and choices and women are returning to the household as one of the cornerstones of an emotionally fulfilled life. The idea that women need to be superwomen just to prove themselves has been replaced, and I dare to hope that American society is finally moving in a way that is friendly to a less hectic, non-workaholic attitude.
Even though cooking has seen renewed prominence, gone are the days of slaving over a hot stove for hours. Today people want meals that are healthy, quick, and easy. The traditional Cornish pasty recipe of the last entry is none of these things. I presented it to you solely for the sake of realizing how far we’ve come since the days of Jane Austen and so we can appreciate where we’ve been. And though I don’t have any desire to return to the ways of the early 19th century on a permanent basis, it’s fun to visit once in a while just to have that contrast, and to appreciate how far we’ve progressed. I have to admit on the evening of cooking, when it was already 9:00 p.m. and my pasty was just coming out of the oven, I was longing for one of the modern quick and easy meals myself.
One of the great things about food is that recipes are only a guideline. If we don’t take recipes as a set of instructions etched in stone, we can borrow an old adage of high school history and learn from those who cooked before us. Unlike many recipes I cook, I hardly modified the pasty recipe from yesterday; however the whole time I was writing the article my mind was working on the myriad ways that the recipe could be improved for modern times.
The pasty has a lot going for it. It’s compact, portable, and when cooked with the proper ingredients, has the potential to taste just as good cold as hot. If you were to substitute ingredients, add vegetables, and generally spice up the filling, it could be a great lunch for work, a fruity dessert, or main course. The dough is quick and easy to make and was the standout highlight of the traditional recipe. For those that would like to incorporate a little bit of English feeling into their lives, without all the traditional English hassle, here’s a way to have your pasty and eat it too (before bedtime).
First, plan your pasty. Select a variety of ingredients that you like. Things like garlic, carrots, ground turkey, cheese, tomato, spinach, ham, herbs, etc. are all great ideas for a savory filling. Add a little sauce for some zest if you’d like instead of relying on the traditional meat juice gravy. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if something works on a pizza or in a baked pie, it will work in your pasty. Be creative and remember that everything will end up well cooked, so buy all your ingredients in raw form.
Go shopping a few days in advance and prepare your ingredients the same day. If you’re a TV watcher, try to set up a chopping station such that you can chop as you catch your show, or chop during the commercials. Wash and chop your ingredients, measure your spices, and put them all in a sealed container so that all you have to do is bring them out when you’re ready to fill the pasty. Remember to follow the rules of food handling and be safe with your meats.
On the day of the pasty cooking, all you’ll need to do is turn on the oven, make the dough, roll it out, ladle on some of your prepared filling, crimp the edges, and pop the pasty in the oven. The pasty in traditional form may not have a lot going for it, but a modified pasty can be a simple treat, one that doesn’t need to be stirred, mixed, basted, or coddled while it’s cooking, leaving the reformed modern woman time for other adventures.
Searchable Keywords: Main Dish, Pastry, Traditional English