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Pheasant Pasty – pheasant, juniper berry and thyme

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Ahhh, the Cornish Pasty. Actually, you will note I haven’t called this a “Cornish Pasty”. I certainly don’t want a self respecting Cornish person to come and lynch me in the middle of the night.

A cornish pasty is traditionally made with beef, and anything else otherwise certainly wouldn’t be a Cornish Pasty.

But, much like Bouillabaisse, and countless other “heritage” dishes, the Cornish Pasty has so many bastard variations it just ain’t funny. So, all you Cornishmen out there – this is my bastard version.. come get me.

A pasty is a pastry casing, filled with meat and carbs. YUM. It already sounds good to me. Traditionally the Cornish would be made with diced steak (never, ever ground beef), turnip, swede (rutabaga) and potato, which all gets nicely wrapped up in a lard crust pastry and baked.

Even more traditionally, these would contain meat and veg at one end, and something sweet (dessert) at the other end. Originally it was designed (apparently – this is all when it starts getting a bit misty) by Cornish housewife’s as a compact, portable meal they could give their husbands who worked “down pit” (in the mines). Once fully cooked, these bad boys are fine to be left out of the fridge for a while, much like a pork pie. They are the perfect size to be held by a large hand, and certainly make for a very filling lunch – and even dinner. I have also heard stories that the crust was just there as a vehicle for the meat and veg – that the miners would toss it away because it would get covered in soot from their hands.  Screw that if you ask me, the pastry is awesome!

Back in England there would be pasty shops – bakeries that specialize in making pasties. My favorite of all time back then was a beef and stilton pasty. YUM. I always ate this with a really decent chutney too – more on the chutney in a later post though.

The pastry is a lard based dough, that yields a flavorful, rich and flaky crust. The outer crust is pretty strong, yet the inner (softer) side of the crust is delicate and somewhat light (considering it has lard in it). Perfect for hauling down a mineshaft I would imagine.

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WAIT A SECOND… MATT… DID YOU MAKE PASTRY, AND BAKE?

Yep. you got me. I did. I actually bloody-well made pastry, and baked something. Anyone who reads my blog regularly (hello Mum!)  knows I really don’t like baking, let alone making pastry. However, I really wanted to make some pasties, and that required the making of a lard crust pastry.

So why pheasant? Well, it is just the start of pheasant season for one. But alas I didn’t go and shoot a pheasant. I wouldn’t know where, and I am a terrible shot by any account. Nope, this was done with a naturally raised pheasant, bought from a lovely little poultry and seafood place in Seattle. The quality of their game is pretty decent, and they always have a varied selection. Their fish however doesn’t compare to Mutual Fish. What is great however is that the poultry place is right next to the farmers Market that Drake and I go to on Saturdays.

It has been bloody ages since I cooked a pheasant too. Normally I just roast them, much like a chicken. I find one is just about the perfect size for two people. The biggest problem I have really is the price. Holy crap. They aren’t cheap. This one cost me 24bucks. Back in England, wild shot pheasant (superior in taste if you ask me) are about 6bucks. That is obviously a huge difference.

And.. Dearie called up at the weekend to tell me just how many darn pheasants are running around the village she lives in back in England. Each year they dart across the road into the place, always right in front of a car. The amount I have hit is certainly not countable on fingers and toes.

One pheasant is going to make about 3 pasties. Not much. My suggestion, unless you are swimming in cash, is to make a few with pheasant, and then do a few traditional Cornish Pasties using a lean cut of beef (eye of round is a decent cut for this, and reasonably priced too).

So – what is a checklist for making a classic Cornish Pasty?

  1. Use lard in your dough. Some people use a lard/butter mix, that is fine.
  2. Used diced beef, NEVER ground beef.
  3. The filling shouldn’t contain carrots. Don’t ask me why, but it ain’t traditional.
  4. Crimping – the edge of the pasty should be crimped tight, to make a tight seal, and to prevent the pasty from bursting. More on this below.
  5. Rutabaga, turnip and potato should be the filling along with the meat – slice the veg thinly, and lay on the pastry, and top with the meat
  6. A little flour should be sprinkled on top of the meat before closing up the pastry, to help the formation of a light gravy.

Obviously, I have thrown some of that to the wind making the pheasant versions of these. However, I still use a lard crust, never carrots, a decent crimp, and the required filling (without rutabaga, because, well, they are nasty).

Oh – and what goes with the pheasant? The all time, number one game spice.. Juniper berry. Crush a few of those up, mix with some chopped fresh thyme, and you have the perfect seasoning for a lot of game meat.

OH – Drake has learnt how to say “PIES”. Bless. So, I made him a little toddler sized pasty. He didn’t like it. Bastards… I was so hoping he would.

OK – here is the recipe.

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Pheasant Pasties

PS: The dough recipe comes from here: http://www.recipezaar.com/Pasty-Pastry-for-Cornish-Miners-Pasties-230316 – I way too crappy with pastry to come up with my own recipe.

another good resource is here: http://www.greenchronicle.com/connies_cornish_kitchen/cornish_pasty.htm

Dough:

3 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup lard

3/4 cup ice water

Filling:

1 pheasant

2 waxy potatoes, peeled and finely sliced

2 medium turnips, peeled and finely sliced

6 juniper berries, crushed

8 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped

salt and pepper, and a little flour

butter

1 egg, beaten (for an egg wash)

To make the dough:

Mix the dry dough ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the lard using a couple of knives, or a swanky pastry blender (which I don’t, and doubt I ever will own). Cut until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add the ice water, mixing with a fork, until you make a pastry like dough that just holds together when squeezed.

Gather this into a ball, and bung in the fridge until required.

Preheat oven to 375F. Roast the pheasant for about 20 minutes. This will make it much easier to cut/pull the meat off it. Once the bird has cooled enough to touch, peel of all the skin and discard. Using a sharp knife cut off both breasts, and legs. Carefully cut as much meat as possible off the legs, taking care not to include any small bones. Cut the meat into a rough dice.

Toss the meat with the juniper berries and thyme. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll out the dough into a rough circle, with the pastry being about 1/4” thick. Apparently it is best to always roll away from you, turning the dough as you go. If anyone could tell me why, that would be awesome!

Take a 6” to 8” dish, and place on the dough. Cut around the dish to form a pastry disc. Put your rolling pin under one half of the cut circle (this will make it easier to lift when it comes to closing the pasty).

Put a layer or two of potato and turnip down – leaving a 1/2” border around the edge (room for crimping). Top with some of the pheasant meat. Add a couple of small cubes of butter, and sprinkle the top of the meat with a little flour. Brush the pastry edges with a little water. Fold the half resting on the rolling pin up and over the meat, making sure the edge meets up with the bottom half. Press the edges together tightly.

Now for the crimping. Starting at one end of the edge. Using your thumb and forefinger hold one part of the dough edge together. Using the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, do the same right next to it. Now try and fold the two over each other (you will only get part way). Repeat this crimp all the way along the pastry edge.

Brush the outsides with a little of the beaten egg. On both sides of the pasty cut a short (1”) hole to let steam out.

Repeat until all the meat is used up.

This dough recipe will make about 6 to 7 pasties. I recommend getting a lean beef roast (eye of round), dicing it, and making a few traditional beef ones. If you want to make it even better, add in a little stilton.

Crank the oven up to 425 and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 320 and bake for a further 40. Allow to cool slightly before eating, the insides will be really hot.

Serve with a simple side salad and a good mature chutney.

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17 Responses to “Pheasant Pasty – pheasant, juniper berry and thyme”

  1. Alex says:

    That looks like one amazing pasty. Being a northerner I am constantly being ridiculed by my girlfriend for my love of all things pie like but pheasant pasty? That’s another level of pastry wrapped deliciousness.

  2. Anticiplate says:

    I love the little baby pasty. Is that for Drake?

  3. Giff says:

    This sounds excellent, and I love the history notes. I just took the pastry plunge as well for a mushroom and farro pie. I figure I need to force myself to keep at it (pastry, that is) until it is second nature, and then it will be fun.

  4. This looks great. I like the idea of using pheasant in this way.

  5. Those look delicious. It’s nice to see pheasant being cooked at home – most people only treat themselves to a pheasant-based dish at a restaurant. You really bring the farm to the table Matt!

  6. matt wright says:

    Alex – us Southerners like pies too.. just on a much lower level to you Northerners!

    Anticiplate – yet the baby pasty was for Drake. He tried it, but it wasn’t his thing.. Maybe next week!

    Giff – I guess the thing for me is that I really need someone to show me what the right consistancies feel like and so forth.. It is all well and good reading “should just stick together”, but there is quite a bit of room for error there.

    Fearless/Chocolate shavings – Thanks! Pheasant is something that is really just as easy to cook as a roast chicken.. I think the biggest problem is finding a decent one. Pretty soon I want to go out and bag a couple myself.

  7. diva says:

    beautiful pasties! i find i crave pasties on long train rides and can never resist pickin one up from the bakeries that dot major train stations here. gosh, your gorgeous pastries have got me drooling. i’m totally gonna be dreaming abt them tonight. x

  8. Hank says:

    Good show! I ate tons of pasties when I lived in Wisconsin; a real Cornishman made them in a little shop near State Street. I have been planning to make some venison pasties for a while. Maybe this’ll get me off my duff!

  9. it’s like pasty fever in the foodblogosphere, and these are some particularly comely specimen.

    that sounds so, so much grosser than is intended.

  10. Heather says:

    Wow, you weren’t kidding! Pheasant is common, but bird hunting isn’t my bag either. It’s so delicious, I bet those pasties were to die for!

    Yours are so much prettier than mine. My crimp went down the side instead of along the top. Mine were crafted by me, though, and not an in-the-flesh Englishman. :)

  11. Y says:

    Awww the mini pasty is so cute! I love making pasty shaped pastries, but rarely use lard. I normally use a favourite creme fraiche pastry recipe instead. Always goes down a treat :)

  12. Jaime Sue says:

    I see I’m going to be breaking the law when I put carrots in mine – oh well! You turn the dough when you’re rolling so that you even out any side to side pressure variation you might have, resulting in more even thickness. Rolling away just seems natural to me but the only things I can think of there is that you can’t see where you’re pushing the dough as well if it’s towards you and you might increase pressure as your arms come towards your body and your weight is more directly above the rolling pin. I’ll let you know how the vegan version turns out!

  13. Tartelette says:

    It’s been ages since I had pheasant and now I am starving just looking at these!! Do you take tenants….I chop and dice too :)

  14. Yes, Master. We will ALWAYS use lard and omit the carrots! Great food advice to live by when it comes to these delicious looking pastries!
    You are multi-talented and now a pastry maker too. Your Mum must be so plump proud!

  15. lemonpi » P says:

    [...] love Pastry. Drape anything in pastry and I’ll probably eat it. Except Poofold. Inspired by Matt’s Partridge Pasties, I made Pastie versions of our curried chicken and Potato Pie dinner the other [...]

  16. Matt, Matt, Matt. I was going to make those, since I have a pheasant at hand, but your comment about the eye of the round safe option at the end got me to raise an eyebrow – is there something I should know before I start with the pheasant? Otherwise, of course I trust you blindfolded :-D

  17. luvspheasant says:

    pheasant can be used in so many places – luv the stuff – also, most is raised without antibiotics etc and is similarly priced to organic chicken. The juniper berries do wonderfully add to the depth of the flavor of pheasant, but I would consider adding garlic as well. YUM…