Filled Pastry Meals: Pasties and Pies

Pasties and pies are two common types of main dish filled pastry that will let your serve meat, grain, and vegetables in one compact meal.

| January/February 1979

  • 055 filled pastry - pasty and pie.jpg
    Pasties (lower left plate) and pies are delicious filled pastry meals that will please the whole family.

  • 055 filled pastry - pasty and pie.jpg

If you're on the lookout for a new way to serve your meat, grain, and potato meals, why not try a main-dish filled pastry? Most anything can be (deliciously) wrapped up in one of these melt-in-your-mouth crusts, which not only add to the "eye appeal" of food but can also help make a little bit of dinner go a long way ... to accommodate unexpected guests or just stretch that shrinkin' dollar.

Interested? Well, then, here are two tried and true pastry recipes for pasties and pies. One is a turnover for individuals, the other a meal-in-a-dish pie. I'll also give you enough filling suggestions to get you started in pastry cookery.

The "Personal" Pasty

The luscious little pasty (it rhymes with "nasty") originated in Cornwall, England. It's about the handiest carry-along meal imaginable, because a pasty is big enough to satisfy a hearty appetite and small enough to fit easily into a pocket or a school lunchbox.

The key to successful pasty cooking (or to making any filled pastry) is a good crust. If you can keep your dough so cold that the flour will bake before the shortening melts, the crust will come out of the oven flaky and delectable. To assure this result, always [1] begin with cold shortening, [2] work the dough as little as possible, and [3] chill your dough before you roll it.

Ready? OK, mix 2 cups of flour (one each of whole wheat and unbleached white) with I teaspoon of salt. Cut 1/2 cup of cold shortening (margarine, lard, or butter) into the flour and combine the mixture with your fingers until it forms lumps about the size of split peas.

Then add 5/8 cup of ice water and mix just until the dough comes off the sides of the bowl in one lump (if it won't hold together, add one tablespoon of water at a time until it does). Chill the finished dough in your fridge while you cook the filling.

To make a meat pasty filling, brown 1 pound or so of ground beef and 1 chopped onion in the "hamburger's" own grease. (if the meat is lean, use a tablespoon or two of oil.) You can also saute 1 or 2 cloves of garlic with the meat and onions if you'd like.

While the above ingredients are slowly browning, cut 2 medium-sized potatoes into 1/2" cubes and boil 'em just until they're tender. Then, drain the spuds and—as you always should—save the vitamin-rich cooking water for use in bread or soup stock. (For variety, you can sauté 2 stalks of chopped celery with the meat, or boil 2 carrots—cut into 1/2" cubes—with the potatoes.) Last of all, mix everything together, add a chopped raw onion, and season the filling with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Add a couple of chili peppers, too, if you like your food hot.

Some folks prefer a grain-based pasty filling. To make a really hearty grain pasty, begin by heating 3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. Saute a chopped onion in the oil, add 1 cup of buckwheat, brown rice, or millet, and cook the grain until it starts to brown.

Then, add 2 cups of hot meat or vegetable stock (if no stock is available, just substitute 2 cups of hot water or—if you'd prefer—2 cups of hot water with 3 bouillon cubes dissolved in it), and simmer the mixture until the grain is tender. (Millet will have to cook about 20 minutes, buckwheat half an hour, and brown rice 45 minutes.)

Let the grain and broth simmer while you cut, cook, and drain 2 medium-sized potatoes as directed In the meat filling recipe above.

Finally, mix all of the ingredients together and add a raw chopped onion. (Or, if you want some "extras" chop 1 or 2 sticks of celery, a couple of carrots, a stalk of broccoli, or a quarter head of cabbage into the grain five minutes before you remove the pan from the stove. These vegetables don't need to simmer long, as they'll get "done" while the pasty bakes.) Season this "stew" with lots of pepper (at least 1 1/ 2 teaspoons) and either soy sauce or salt to taste.

Obviously, the Cornish pasty can accommodate most any filling, so use whatever ingredients you have around. Combine grains with meats, for instance (or mix together two different grains) and throw in a variety of vegetables. It's nearly impossible to make a bad pasty filling.

Puttin' 'Em Together

If you want eight large (meal-sized) pasties, just divide your dough into eight equal parts. Use a rolling pin—and only enough flour to prevent sticking—to roll each piece Into a circle about 1/4" thick. Place the discs on a greased cookie sheet and heap filling onto half of each circle. (if you want, put a two-inch square of thinly sliced cheese on top of the filling ... it'll melt in the oven.)

Now, fold each pasty over its filling and crimp the edges closed with your thumb and forefinger. When this is done, beat together 1 egg yolk and 2 teaspoons of water, and "fingerpaint" this glaze onto the tops of the pasties. Be sure to prick the top of each pie with a fork—in several places—to let steam escape and keep the inside upper crust crispy.

Bake your pasties for 10 minutes at 400°F. (it's best if you prick 'em again at this point; the glaze sometimes seals up the original holes.) Then, reduce the oven to 375°F and continue to cook the tarts until they're golden brown. Serve these treats hot or cold for dinner or lunch. Either way they'll be gobbled up before you know it!

Got Your Eye on a Pie?

The flaky pastry described above will make a fine pie shell, or, as an alternative, you could mix up a nutty and crumbly oil crust. The latter doesn't "travel" as well as pasty dough does, but—since folks aren't likely to carry a piece of pie in their pockets—the extra "crumbliness" won't be a problem.

If you'd like to try an oil crust, mix together 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and—in a separate container—beat 1/2 cup of oil and 1/4 cup of ice water. Toss these two mixtures together with a fork until the dough barely forms one lump. If it's too dry, add a few more drops of oil and toss the dough again.

Roll the (unchilled!) crust between two sheets of wax paper, then peel off the top sheet, turn the crust over into your pie tin, and remove the remaining piece of paper. Either this dough recipe or the one for "flaky" pastry will make a huge one-crust pie (baked in a 10-inch skillet) or two shallower nine-inch one-crust pies.

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