I consider myself to be something of a pasty connoisseur. Although I was brought up in Hampshire, my Grandfather’s family remains scattered around the Cornish peninsula, and some of my favourite childhood memories are of noshing down on one of the traditional pasties which were then only available in Cornwall. Although you could buy a “Cornish” pasty in Hampshire, they were pale and unappealing in comparison to the proper job.
Friends and family travelling to Cornwall were always under strict instructions to “bring back pasties!”. I can remember excitedly waiting for a friend to return from Cornwall, even to the point of waiting outside his house. Not because my friend was coming back, but because he was bringing me a proper pasty!
(In case you were wondering, the pasty he brought back was possibly the worst I’ve ever tasted. Jon assures me that he bought it in Cornwall but to this day I entertain doubts. It was made of minced gristle and clumps of powdery gravy granules… definitely not a true pasty!)
In recent years the Cornish pasty has spread across the UK, with shops opening everywhere. Although this is a great improvement on the Ginsters slop, the best Cornish pasties can still only be found in Cornwall. (Amusingly, Ginsters was forced to hop the border from Devon to Cornwall back in 2011 when the EU ruled that only pasties made in Cornwall could be called Cornish pasties.)
Interestingly, the EU ruling also states that a genuine Cornish pasty has to have a distinctive “D” shape and be crimped on one side. It added: “The texture of the filling is chunky, made up of uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), swede, potato, and onion with a light seasoning.”
This is somewhat irritating as the EU has failed to properly translate the recipe. In Cornwall, a swede is known as a turnip and a turnip is known as a swede. Therefore, as my Great-Aunty Yvonne will tell you at great length, a true pasty should be made with turnip, not swede.
So why the diatribe about Cornish pasties? Well, this week I’m visiting Cornwall with my mother. It’s a chance to catch up with the relatives, see some of our favourite sights, and gorge ourselves on Cornish pasties and clotted cream ice-creams.
We’re staying at a site that billed itself as St Ives, but is actually Hayle. We’re not that bothered by this – Hayle is actually more convenient for most of what we want to do and is picturesque in its own right. As we drove through yesterday, we noted that Hayle appears to have at least four pasty shops, two Warrens Bakeries and two Philps. In addition, the local butcher also sells pasties and pies.
Now Warrens I’m familiar with… we have two in Exeter and my family has another tie to the world’s oldest pasty producer – they opened their first shop in my Great-Grandmother’s village, St Just. Philps on the other hand… Well, mum tells me that they’re my second cousin’s husband’s favourite pasty shop. Aunty Yvonne doesn’t think they’re too bad either!
With that kind of recommendation, how could I resist?
We chose the largest of the two Philps in Hayle, mainly because it has a spacious car park. Although we arrived just before midday, the car park was busy with cars constantly coming and going – a testament to the quality of the pasties, especially since we’re now outside the main tourist season.
It was possible to peep through an open door into the spotless kitchen behind the scenes, but dallying was costing us our place in the rapidly forming queue. Mum found a pasty keyring that she liked in their small gift section, while I loved the clip-lock lighthouse cookie jars. But we were falling further and further back in that queue!
The queue stretched passed the cake counter with a generous selection of delicacies and I was sorely tempted by a large Jaffa cake. I eventually opted to buy it and save it for later, knowing full well that I was about to stuff myself with a large traditional.
We had the choice of four different kind of pasties. Traditional, minced meat, cheese and vegetables, and vegetables and butter; all available in standard or large. I also noted that they had a selection of standard traditionals available with extra salt and pepper. Perfect for mum, who likes her pasties far more peppery than I can stand.
I’d skipped breakfast so I chose a large traditional, which almost managed to defeat me. Stuffed full of potato, onion, swede and with a generous helping of large chunks of melt-in-your-mouth steak scattered evenly throughout, it was just as good as I’d hoped. Even better, the crimped crust running down the side was tiny. I normally discard this bit, but this time I found myself eating every scrap. It was so good that I only remembered to take a picture once it was almost all gone!
Pleasantly full, mum and I headed off to Penzance to see Aunty Yvonne. Halfway there, mum suddenly realised that we hadn’t bought any saffron cake for tea tonight and was heartily disappointed. It’s one of her favourite treats. Fortunately, Aunty had remembered how much she likes it and had bought her one to have while we were there.
After our visit, we headed back to our temporary home for tea and cake. Mum had her saffron cake but I still had the Philps Jaffa cake waiting for me…
Exquisitely presented, it reminded me from the very first of the French patisserie lemon tarts. Cracking open the chocolate exterior revealed three different layers… soft cake, tart orange, and silky Italian meringue. The orange layer had the sharp tang of a really good marmalade, and contained shreds of actual orange.
Despite the large size of the cake, I couldn’t resist polishing the whole thing off (I’m on holiday so calories don’t count!). But don’t worry, I resisted the urge to emulate Paul Hollywood and dunk my cake into my cuppa!
So it’s official. I have a new pasty supplier. Now I just need to put in my order of frozen pasties to take home….