From Cornwall to Amsterdam
A pasty is a British baked pastry, a traditional variety of which is particularly associated with Cornwall, South West England but has spread all over the British Isles. Pasties were the staple food of miners and farm workers for many years, with the thick crust acting as a handle. Like Champagne, the Cornish Pasty is a protected food name with Protected Geographical Indication, and can only be called such if it has been assembled in Cornwall.
Dave is one half of the Bar Brother team, a British pub based in Amsterdam, providing familiar beers, snacks and Sunday Roast dinners to half of Amsterdam.
Now, I would never consider myself an argumentative person, or 100% Cornish in fact (I moved there when I was 2). However, when it comes to the best pasty in Cornwall, I will fight with my friends until the cows come home, and often they don't. I spent almost all of the first 18 years of my life in Cornwall, so the number of pasties I’ve eaten must be up in the 10s of thousands.
Flaky pastry vs more of a soft and doughy pastry. Hot and peppery vs mild. Scorch the roof of your mouth and make funny noises while trying to eat and simultaneously blow it to cool vs room temp and gobble it down. And the one that gets more heated discussions than any of the above, Traditional Steak vs Vegetarian.
For the record, Portreath Pasty Shop is my favourite, where they combine a flaky yet soft dough, with hot and peppery filling, that you can eat almost as soon as you buy it without burning your face off.
It's all these heated discussions throughout my time growing up in Cornwall that led me onto the major task of developing my own take on the pasty when we decided to launch Bar Brother. It's the first thing that I eat when I get back to Cornwall for the holidays, and I wanted to share this comforting experience with all of our guests at the bar by adding it to the menu.
Finding the best Recipe
Now I'm not blessed with any Cornish family so I've never had Nan's recipe to go off, and as a result had to make use of a combination of YouTube, asking my friends' Mums and my Mum's friends. After receiving lots of different recipes and suggestions, I collected them all together and got moving. Despite not being an experienced pasty maker, I am a very experienced pasty eater, so I was confident at least in my ability to test.
Every recipe that I found online, and every recipe I received from anyone else contained one key ingredient that I was unable to use - LARD. For those of you that don't know this is pork fat. Since day one of Brothers Roast, myself and Liam have endeavoured to make sure that every recipe that we make is as inclusive as possible, plus I don't want to make two separate pastries, so had to strike this off the list as an option, and ensure that we're going down a vegetarian route.
After many attempts with butter, margarine and some others, finally we found our solution, Vegan butter, made with a mix of Coconut oils and other things. After many tests this proved to provide flaky yet soft pastry and kept all the fillings inside neatly, and also ensured that we're able to provide a great vegan meal without having to compromise anywhere.
Biggest find - using a tortilla press to make the dough out into the perfect shape!
This is the art of joining the pasty together so that all of your fillings don't spill everywhere. Video here to give you context. I've tried this a couple of times in the past but am very out of practice. I once heard of a girl from Cornwall that could crimp two pasties at the same time and I don’t think I’ve ever been more impressed. Turns out this skill is one of those that you can only get good at by doing over and over and over again.
So that’s what I’ve spent a large portion of my time over the past three months doing. Crimping, and breaking the dough, crimping and having too much dough on there, crimping and swearing bloody murder in the kitchen of my apartment. After a few weeks of this, I finally cracked it, and managed to get the rhythm down. The secret, I found, was dipping your finger tips in flour whilst doing it, and making sure that there wasn’t too much spare dough. Challenge number 2 defeated.
Now here things got a bit more simple. I’m still very much a traditionalist when it comes to fillings in pasties, at least for the meat option. The traditional cut is skirt steak (sounds better if you put on a Cornish accent), and I managed to find something similar to this out here in Amsterdam, so was good there. Then it’s potatoes (taties), onion and swede (or turnip if you can’t find that). Thankfully I found all of the above, so just layer those on with what you think is way too much salt and pepper, and it’s ansome*.
*ansome - Cornish dialect adjective, lovely (from handsome)
Now for the vegetarian option things can get a bit more creative. Initially I went down the very indulgent route of Cauliflower Cheese. This was unsurprisingly heart-stoppingly good, and will be seen on the menu in the very near future. However initially I wanted the vegetables to shine through, I decided to replace the steak with Butternut Squash, or as it is aptly named in Dutch, Vleespoempen (Meat Pumpkin). This worked out great, and really gives a springboard to go elsewhere with it.
Finally Nailing it
Once all of the above activities had been combined together, I found myself setup as a small pasty making machine, and will continue to hammer these out every week, ensuring that the filling remains fresh and varied, and customers are getting their fix on a weekly basis. These are available in the bar from Tuesday to Saturday, and go perfect with a pint of Doom Bar.