Long before it became a buzz word, my family sometimes, ‘staycationed’. Only we didn’t call it that. 30 (ish) years ago my parents called it, ‘Damn! Business isn’t doing well, can’t have much time off. Don’t think we’ll go to France this year’. But now we have 'staycationing', we can pretend we are worried about carbon footprints whilst really thinking, ‘Damn! The recession has hit; don’t think we’ll go to Tuscany this year’. So that’s good isn’t it?
If you lived in the South West in the ‘70’s, there really was only one destination for your staycation; Cornwall. How well I remember the tailbacks on the M5 just past Weston-Super-Mare. How the car vibrated to the vicious arguments as we got lost on some single track road on Dartmoor. How close was Mother to divorcing Father when we got a puncture in the rain just outside Newquay? Yes, Cornwall was the stuff of dreams.
Ok, so it’s picturesque. But when you’ve seen one cutesy fishing village, haven’t you seen them all? All the boats in the harbour look great on a sunny day, but the sun didn’t seem to shine much in the ‘70’s. And where there are boats and sea, there are seagulls. Seagulls are enormous, and in low light you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a Harrier jump jet coming at you. Cornwall has some of the biggest and best in the British Isles. Then, as now, they'd have the chips out of your wrapper before you could say, ‘Oi! I paid 15 quid for those!’
Cornwall is not warm. True, it is further south than Edinburgh, but that does not make Cornwall warm. It is still a very long way from the equator. I remember wearing a lot of jumpers on those ‘summer’ holidays. Some were bought in an emergency because Mum had only packed flip flops and shorts, such naivety! You see when the wind blows on those long, sandy beaches, it is chuffing freezing. And sure the sea looks gorgeous on the postcards, but here’s a news flash; Cornwall is sandwiched between the Atlantic and the English Channel. Icy cold on the one side, full of effluent on the other (the Channel side being noticeably warmer, hmmm, wonder why that is?). So bathing isn’t really an option either.
It’s hilly. And hilly means hours of slow walking back up to your campsite. Carrying all the buckets and spades because, ‘you carried them down, you can carry them back up’. Never mind that I’d barely got to use them because it had been so cold and windy on the beach that we’d spent hours sheltering in a cafe. No, I still had to carry them back up to the campsite, in my flip flops with the wind whipping through my layers of jumpers. I’m sure camping is a form of child abuse.
It’s tired. Cornwall has been doing the tourist thing forever, and quite frankly, it’s had enough. Every little shack on every winding track has a B&B sign outside. Try Googling ‘holiday cottage in Cornwall’ and you will get 768,000 hits. That’s far too many for a hilly, cold - albeit picturesque - peninsula. What it means is that from May to September it is heaving (particularly the cafes as everyone shelters from the bitter wind), and then from October to April, nothing. I reckon those desperate B&B signs haven’t made the owners enough to tide them over, I’m guessing there’s quite a bit of stressing about money in Cornwall. What it needs is a better industry. We should send in the French to build a nuclear processing plant. Then ask the Japanese to open a car plant south of Mevagissey, and you’ll see the economy pick up. We’re so over picture postcard tourism, start paying your way Cornwall!
I’ve been a bit rude haven’t I? I guess those childhood Cornish holidays have left deep scars. But there’s one Cornish thing you can’t fault. It’s the pasties. Delicious mounds of pastry filled with a tasty, peppery filling, guaranteed to warm you up on a freezing, windy day in summer. I’ve tweaked the recipe and made them gluten free and vegetarian, do you think that will upset the locals?
Vegetarian Cornish Pasties (makes 6-8 pasties)
I do like this gluten free pastry, it's got good consistency and my non-gluten intolerant children wolf it down without even realising. I used the bread flour intentionally, it's not a typo. My only complaint is; it doesn't really brown when it's cooking. If you can eat eggs, then I think it would be good to use an egg glaze . Just beat an egg and brush it over the pasties before putting them in the oven. And if you're thinking, 'I think these would be good with meat darling, not just an egg glaze', well then simply find your fav meat recipe and use my pastry!
For the filling:
75g puy lentils (weigh before cooking. Use more if you like, it depends how much you like lentils)
Heat oven to 170˚ Celsius and line two baking trays with baking parchment
Weigh out the lentils and cook them as per the packet instructions. Drain and set aside
Top and tail the green beans and finely chop them. Peel the carrots and potatoes and chop them into very small cubes (about 0.5cm x 0.5cm). Chop the onion
Place all the vegetables into a large non-stick frying pan and douse with olive oil. Gently heat until it's sizzling. Cover and then keep stirring every 2-3 minutes initially, after a few minutes the steam will build up in the pan and they'll start to steam cook (sort of) and you won't need to stir as much.
When the vegetables are cooked (approximately 15 minutes), add the dairy free spread and stir until melted. Add the yeast extract and mix. If for some reason your veg mix is too runny, add some cornflour (or you could probably get away with any other GF flour) to thicken, but not too much; you want your pasty innards quite juicy. Set aside
Put the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the xanthan gum (if using wheat flour the xanthan is not required) and salt. Mix together with a mini whisk
Add the dairy free spread, and rub it into the flour. If using gluten free flour it will be quite sticky, but keep going trying to break up the big lumps of fat
Gradually add the cold water, the measurements are only approximate. You want to bind the mix together to make a soft pastry, but don't make it too wet and sticky. You could now wrap the pastry in clingfilm, put it in the fridge and make the pasties later. Otherwise...
Flour a work surface with gluten free flour and break off a chunk of pastry. Roll it out to about 3mm thick. Use a cereal bowl or small plate to mark out a circle and cut out the circle
Place the pastry circle onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment, wet the edges with water/soy/rice milk. Spoon some pasty filling into the middle of the circle, then fold it over until the pastry edges meet and you have a pasty shape. Press and pinch the edges together
Repeat until all the pastry and pasty mix is used up
If you want to glaze with eggs, then go ahead. Otherwise, despairingly brush your pasties with rice milk or soy milk and plead with them to brown as they cook. I'm sure they won't listen, but it's worth a try
Bake the pasties for about 20 minutes, but keep an eye on them, you don't want them to burn. Some of the filling juice may ooze out, but that all adds to the charm
Serve these bad boys on their own with a dollop of brown sauce (so classy) or with roast potatoes ( a carbo-loading extravaganza) or just a light green salad (so virtuous).
Try to expunge all memories of Cornwall from your mind. If that doesn't work, it might be time for therapy...