Oct 08 2004

Pasties, Quiche and Victoria Sponge



The pasty question is a vexing one! Should they be crimped along the top or flat like a fat bolster. Is the beef minced or chopped – must it be beef? Does carrot go into the filling or just turnip and onion? Mrs Beeton, 1926, adds baking powder to her pastry and gravy to the filling! “ Farmhouse Fare” 5/- 1956 slices the beef and makes pastry with butter. Even Jane Grigson finishes the pasty with a frill on the top. She does makes the pastry with lard though. A minefield! My Cornish mother-in-law’s son is quite adamant: you cannot get a proper pasty in Devon, not even Widecombe!

His mother remembered, as a child at the beginning of the last century, pasties, big and bolster shaped, being made very early in the morning. They were wrapped in newspaper and packed into an old suitcase or box and carried to the fields by the farm workers. When it was time to rest and eat, the pasties were still warm, comforting to cold hands and empty stomachs. If times were hard the filling was more potato and turnip than meat. One end was often jam-filled for pudding, all washed down with a bottle of cold tea, then back to work.

Make a short crust pastry with 12 oz plain flour, 6 oz lard, ¼ tsp of salt and a little water, put it into the fridge to rest. Chop 1 lb of chuck steak, 4-5oz onion, 3oz turnip, 8oz potato. Mix together with salt and plenty of pepper. Roll out the pastry and cut out two large circles, divide the meat mixture between the two. Brush the rim of the pastry with beaten egg then fold in half and roll over the edge to form a crescent.. Place the pasties on a baking tray, brush them with beaten egg and bake in a hot oven ( 6/400) for 20 minutes, lower the heat and continue cooking for approximately another 40 minutes. Eat hot or cold.



The word quiche fills me with dread. It has come to mean something squishy, pale and damp on a bed of cardboard and it turns up everywhere. Where on earth has true Quiche gone? How did it become this sad shadow of its former self? I fear it followed the Pizza Trail, the pineapple and sweet corn route! Indeed, time was when quiche was made on a dough base like pizza and its’ French counterpart pissaladiere. But gradually the dough was replaced by a short pastry and every region had its traditional filling. Here is the traditional

Quiche Lorraine.

Gone are the days when I made the pastry by hand on my marble slab, working the ingredients together with the fingers of one hand; make a circle of flour, break and egg into the centre, etc……… Now I put 4 oz plain flour, 2 oz butter, a small egg and a pinch of salt into the food processor and blitz for a couple of minutes. I scrape it out with a soft spatula, wrap it in a butter paper and put it in the fridge to rest and chill. This makes it easier to handle and less inclined to shrink while cooking. Meanwhile turn on the oven and place a baking sheet in the centre to get really hot (6/400f/200c). Roughly chop 8 rashers of streaky bacon and a medium onion, gently fry them in a little oil and butter till soft but not brown. Whisk together ½ pint of cream and 3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg. Add freshly ground black pepper. Roll out the pastry and line an 8 inch metal flan tin. Put in the bacon and onion, pour over the egg mixture and place on that hot baking tray in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on your own oven. Just keep an eye on it and lower the heat if necessary. The secret is the very hot tray which ensures that the base is crisp and cooked not soggy and raw while the filling remains light yet crisp on top! The variations on the fillings are endless, tomatoes, ham, asparagus, mushrooms, seafood, cheese and so on and so on.


Victoria Sponge

Victoria Sponge, cucumber sandwiches – no crusts – and chocolate biscuits and those ones that look as if they were filled with dead flies, what were they called? It’s tea time on a winter’s afternoon. Granny has had the fire lit and the table laid, Nanny has cleaned me up and sent me down from the nursery…

“ And it is the nicest meal of the day. whether it is taken in the nursery with a two year old host making milk and honey flow with a lavishness that rouses wonder … or in a North country inn with eleven or twelve different sorts of cakes on the table; out of doors or merely in the drawing room. Philosophers might say the charm of the meal lay in the informal conversation: pedants may contend that all hangs on the country of origin of the tea itself; but all children, and all sensible people know that the fascination of tea really depends entirely upon the cakes.” Mrs C. F Level: The Gentle Art of Cookery 1925.

From the Constance Spry Cookery Book 1964:

“Take 3 eggs and their weight in butter, caster sugar, self raising flour, some good jam and icing or caster sugar. Cream the butter until it looks like whipped cream. Add the sugar and beat until white. Add the eggs one at a time with a good spoonful of sifted flour. Beat thoroughly. Sift the baking powder with the remaining flour, stir quickly into mixture. Turn into two sandwich tins 7 inches across, well buttered and floured; bake in a moderate oven 20-30 minutes. Turn out when cool, sandwich well with a good jam. Powder with icing or caster sugar.” Or, then again, you could just do what the Calendar Girls did…

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One Response to “Pasties, Quiche and Victoria Sponge”

  1. A+Ron 01 Feb 2005 at 6:49 pm

    Loverly photos !!!!!

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