Chunky flakes of smoked haddock fillet, encased in a creamy and pungent mustard sauce, wrapped up in flakey puff pastry.
I’ve taken one of Great Britain best-loved dishes, the classic Cornish pasty, and made my own fishy version. Gone is the traditional mince beef and turnip interior to be replaced with smoked haddock, young baby spinach, and a punchy mustard sauce.
The traditional Cornish pasty is a dish has been around for centuries and was first made popular by miners who use to take it underground for something to snack on. Because of its shape and size it fits easily into a miners pocket and could be wolfed down without any cutlery….a quick and handy meal. Apparently they would heat it up on a spade over a candle, not ideal food preparation conditions. I wonder what environmental health would say…no wonder their life expectancy was so short.
Just get your puff pastry in the shop for this. You could make your own but who’s got the time for all that folding, turning and resting? Making the real deal is a real labour of love and if you’ve got half the day to spare than it’s worth the trouble. Most of us simply don’t have the time though.
Luckily there’s some really good puff pastry available in the shops these days. Make sure you read the back of the packet though. You looking for a pastry that’s been made with real butter, not margarine or vegetable fat. There’s a massive difference in taste, texture….and price. Puff pastry that’s been made with butter is much richer, more flakey, and has a much better flavour.
Nearly every restaurant I’ve ever worked in buys it in any way. I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve made puff pastry in the last 10 years. My take on store-bought ingredients is that if you can’t make better at home, than save yourself the hastle.
I really wanted to use smoked Finnan Haddock in my pasty. It’s a traditional Scottish haddock that’s cold smoked over peat and green wood. I looked everywhere for it and tried 3 different fishmongers but all to no avail. If you can get your hands on some it would be ideal for this recipe because it’s lightly smoked with a very subtle flavour.
In the end I just used some undyed smoked haddock and you should too because its more natural than the dyed haddock. Apparently they just add the dye to make it look more smoked.
I’ve used both loads of times and i don’t think there is any difference in the flavour but I doubt the dye does anything for the nutritional content.
I’ve got some good news and some bad news when it comes to the recipe though. Everybody always wants the bad news first so I’ll be honest and tell you that these pasties take a bit of time to make. The filling has to be made first and left to cool completely before you fill the pastie. The reason being that a warm filling would start to melt the butter in the pastry before you cook it. Something you want to avoid at all costs.
The good news though is that you can make these ahead of time, freeze them, and cook them from frozen. So make up a big batch and fill the freezer with them, they’re a real tasty snack to have on hand when your stomach starts to rumble. I’ve become a little addicted to them. I love the way the flakey pastry gives way to the soft and smokey filling. One is never enough for me.
The best thing about these pasties is watching people dig into the pastry and their surprise as the bright, luminous sauce seeps out.
Pour your milk into a pot then add the bay leaf and the smoked haddock. Bring the milk up to the boil and allow the haddock to cook for 2 minutes.
Remove the haddock from the milk and pour the milk through a sieve. When the haddock is cool enough for you to handle, flak up its flesh and discard any bones you come across.
Next melt the butter in a pan, add the flour, and cook gently for about two minutes. Slowly add the milk stirring constantly and bring the sauce to the boil. The sauce should be smooth, creamy, and thick without any lumps.
Add the your mustard to the sauce and give it a good whisk. Than remove it from the heat and add the flaked up haddock and your baby spinach. Make sure you wash the spinach first to remove any grit or dirt. Pour the filling onto a tray and allow to cook completely.
Next its time to make the pasties. Roll out your puff pastry to a thickness of about 5m (.25 inch) Then cut out 6 circles about 7/8 inches in diameter (you can use a small plate as a template to do this).
Spoon some of the haddock mixture onto one half of the puff pastry circles, brush the edges with the beaten egg and fold the pastry over sealing up the pasty. Repeat the process with the remaining puff pastry circles.
Move the pasties to the fridge and allow to rest for at least half an hour before you cook them. Or you could put them in the freezer at this stage if you’re making them ahead of time.
While their resting preheat your oven to 220c / 425f. Then brush the pasties with the beaten egg and bake in a the hot oven for about 30 minutes till golden.
Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before you serve them.