An ancient ‘fast food’!

Think of Devon, and you probably think of cream teas. Think of Cornwall and it’s pretty likely you’ll think of a Cornish pasty. Gosh, didn’t we enjoy tucking into them as children on the beach – sadly, my memory is always of pasty with added sand! But this immensely popular dish is a great example of an early packed lunch or convenience food.

There’s lots of historical evidence confirming the existence of the Cornish pasty, the earliest as far back as the 13th century during the reign of Henry III. The pasty became commonplace in the 16th and 17th centuries and, by the 18th century, it was established as a Cornish food eaten by poorer working families who could only afford cheap ingredients such as potatoes, swede and onion. Meat was added later. 

By the end of the 18th century it was the staple diet of working men across Cornwall. Miners and farm workers took this portable and easy to eat convenience food with them to work because it was perfect for their needs. Its size and shape made it easy to carry – its pastry case insulated the contents and was durable, while its wholesome ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long, hard working days. 

There are hundreds of stories about the evolution of the pasty’s shape, with the most popular being that the D-shape enabled tin miners to eat them safely. The crust (the crimped edge) was used as a handle which was then thrown away due to the high levels of arsenic in many of the tin mines – ugh! 

The Cornish pasty recipes were handed down from generation to generation, often by word of mouth and rarely written down because they were made almost every day. Young girls were often made to practice crimping techniques using plasticine before being allowed to work with pastry!

You’ll find lots of different recipes online, but here’s a nice simple one to try. I personally think the addition of white pepper helps give it that lovely peppery kick that I remember so clearly from my childhood. Enjoy!

To make 4 Cornish pasties

Ingredients 

  • For the pastry
  • 125g chilled and diced butter
  • 125g lard
  • 500g plain flour, plus extra
  • 1 egg, beaten 

For the filling 

  • 350g beef skirt or chuck steak, chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 175g swedes, peeled, finely diced
  • 1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp ground white pepper 

Method

 

  1. Rub the butter and lard into the flour with a pinch of salt using your fingertips or a food processor, then blend in 6 tbsp cold water to make a firm dough. Cut equally into 4, then chill for 20 mins. 
  2. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Mix together the filling ingredients with 1 tsp salt. Roll out each piece of dough on a lightly floured surface until large enough to make a round about 23cm across – use a plate to trim it to shape. Firmly pack a quarter of the filling into one half of each round, leaving a margin round the edge. Brush the pastry all the way round the edge with beaten egg then carefully fold the empty half of the pastry across to form a semi-circle, or ‘D’ shape, and pinch the edges together to seal. Lift onto a non-stick baking tray and brush with the remaining egg to glaze.
  3. Bake for 10 mins, then lower oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and cook for 45 mins more until golden. Great served warm for lunch, in a picnic… or on the beach!

 

 

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A load of old cordwainers!

Tools of a cordwainer’s trade.I am always fascinated by words and their origins and coming across old names for things always piques my interest. Partner in crime writing, Julia, recently wrote an article about a woman who made shoes and made the point that she was most definitely NOT a cobbler… she was a cordwainer. What a wonderful term! This, of course, set me off and I began Googling and have found out all sorts of fascinating things…

Old names for trades are really quaint and often highly descriptive, what a shame we no longer use most of them. Here are some examples:

  • Carnifex – butcher
  • Cissor – tailor
  • Flauner – confectioner
  • Huckster – seller of small articles/wares
  • Nedder – needle-maker
  • Puddler – wrought iron worker, mixer of molten pig iron into wrought iron
  • Tipstaff – policeman, bailiff, constable
  • Whitcher – maker of chests

A huckster from the 1860s… long before the advent of the website!Hmmm… perhaps I should promote myself as a ‘Huckster’ as through the website we sell lots of ‘small articles and wares’ – what do you think?

If you are called Cooper or Baxter, you may well know that your ancestors were barrel makers (cooper) and bakers (baxter).  But what if you are a Spicer, Leech or Fuller? Somewhere along the line your ancestors would have been (in order) grocers, doctors and felt or cloth makers.

It’s fascinating to see how our names evolve over the centuries. People’s accents and the listening and spelling capabilities of parish clerks are usually responsible for all the different versions of names we have today. She’s not sure, but Julia thinks ‘Wherrell’ is a corruption of ‘wheeler’. As her family originates from Wiltshire, the accent would make wheeler sound more like “woller’ or ‘worrell’ and eventually, ‘wherrell’.

‘Sheen’ is not an easy name to sort out, but most likely it has Irish origins. The original Gaelic form of the name Sheen is ‘O Siodhachain’, which may derive from ‘siodhach’ which means peaceful, so that’s quite nice!

And the difference between a cobbler and a cordwainer? A cobber mends shoes, a cordwainder makes them. The word is derived from ‘cordwain’, or ‘cordovan’, the fine leather produced in Córdoba, Spain. So now you know!

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Knitting squares for a baby treat!

I am sure most of you have tried knitting squares over the years. My mother decided she would like to try again recently as something to keep her busy during the darker days of winter when she can’t get out into the garden.

I bought some wool and the right needles and she was away. However sadly her Parkinsons just wouldn’t let her knit for long and she became a bit downhearted with it all. So a family member stepped in, Sue Litchfield, and she took over and added even more than we expected.

Sue is a simply brilliant quilter and now I realise she is also a good knitter too! I thought it was a simply fantastic idea to connect the squares with the daisy at the junction of four squares. It adds such a lift to the design. Then, to complete the work of art, she has backed the blanket with some pale cotton, which will make it even nicer to lie on/under if you are a small baby called Grace!

Thank you Sue!

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Golden Wedding card

Some of my mother’s friends have a Golden Wedding any minute now and so I thought this card would be just the job. The card was made by Jo Westwick and it is just lovely! It uses the curved basket from our container range and the flowers are from our rubber stamps. I love playing with these stamps more than any other stamps we have produced and I’ll be showing you some examples over the next month or so that I hope will inspire you…

What do I need to make this card?

How to make the card

  1. Create 7 by 5 inch card blank from white hammer finish card.
  2. Cut a piece of white card to measure 6.5 by 4.5 inches and mat onto yellow card.  Mount onto the card front using foam pads.
  3. Die cut the basket from kraft card and the fancy oval shapes from white and yellow card as shown.  Die cut a small section of ivy leaves in green card.
  4. Mount the fancy oval onto the card front and use glue gel to fix the basket in place. 
  5. Stamp out multiple flowers of your choice from the stamp sheet and colour with promarkers.
  6. Cut out the coloured flowers and arrange in the basket, along with the ivy leaves, using glue gel.
  7. Tie a double layered bow and fix in place above the basket and finish the card by adding a flat backed pearl in each corner.
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The truth about St Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m sure all of us at some time in our lives have sent Valentine cards, or longed to receive one… As a teenager, I can remember it being terribly, terribly important! It is really more of a young person’s event but some people are very good at keeping the romantic flame alive as they get older and go out for a nice meal, or buy flowers, Richard is a real sweetie and often presents me with a huge bouquet – but it depends how busy we are at work!

As ever, when one of these special days comes round on the calendar, I like to do a bit of sleuthing and find out the truth and more often, the myths behind it all…

Saint Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries A Valentine card from 1862.around the world. It began as a celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus and there are all sorts of martyrdom stories and myths about this era. But the day was first associated with romance by Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion for lovers to express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards known as ‘valentines’. Printers had already begun producing a limited number of cards with verses and sketches, called ‘mechanical valentines,’ and a reduction in postal rates in the next century ushered in the less personal, but much easier, practice of posting Valentines.

Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories. Fancy cards were made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid-19th century. In 1835, an amazing 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in Britain, despite postage being expensive. 

I think it’s lovely that we crafters still make our own and put real time, effort and love into producing our Valentine cards, rather than just buying a mass-produced effort which today are so often rather cheap and a bit vulgar – I know, I know, I’m showing my age!!

Have a lovely day, whether you are celebrating or not!

 

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