It’s a blustery autumn day, and Sparky and Dr. Lasergonapus agreed, possibly reluctantly, to take a break from decimating aliens on the Xbox and cook with me. I had previously told them we’d be making Cornish Pasties, also known as Oggies; savory pastries with a charming history. The song “Oggy, oggy, oggy, oi, oi, oi” (which you may know as an Australian football cheer) purportedly originated with wives of Cornish tin miners – they’d yell down the mineshaft that “oggies,” or pasties were ready, and their husbands responded with the UK equivalent of “yea!” The oggies were then dropped into the mine to the grateful hands of their hungry spouses. The crimped edge is especially important, as it offered Cornish tin miners a sanitary way to eat – it was “left for the pixies” along with the arsenic that probably stained their hands. Cornishmen claim that the oggy is the parent of as disparate savory pies as the empanada and calzone, but its closest cousin is commonly available in Michigan – although the American version uses precooked ground beef, and traditional pasties start with raw sliced beef.
There’s another tradition in Cornwall, about how the devil fears to set foot there because he might wind up as filling in an Oggy: Cornish housewives were notoriously resourceful when it came to food. Traditionally, the pasty has just seven things in the filling: salt, pepper, butter, beef, onion, rutabaga and potato. While we made our own pastry dough, this is one recipe that might benefit from a sturdy storebought pastry (even puff pastry will do,) so don’t feel the need to make a piecrust.
Sparky and Dr. Lasergonapus rubbed the butter into the flour until it resembled oatmeal, then tossed it with some water until it made a shaggy dough. They divided it into 6 balls, and rolled each ball out into a circle the size of a dessert plate. (At this point we preheated the oven to 425 degrees.)
Thinly sliced rutabaga,
thinly sliced potato,
thinly sliced onion,
skirt, round or chuck steak cut in small dice
and topped this with dabs of butter and a liberal sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Then, the outside of the circle was dampened with water, and both sides were drawn up to make a half-moon shape. The seam was well pinched and folded over until it was well sealed.
The finished oggies went on a silpat liner on a baking sheet. (Technically, they need an egg wash but I always feel like that’s a waste of an egg.) They baked at 425 for 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. The vegetables kind of steam into a gravy, and the whole thing has a delicious nutty sweetness that goes spectacularly well with beef. Enjoy!
Of course, one normal-sized rutabaga is significantly more than you need to make 6 Oggies, so I cut enough onions, potato and steak up to make sure I had all the ingredients to make a pie out of the remainder – I lined a pie tin with piecrust, layered in all the remaining ingredients, and covered them with an (admittedly shaggy) top crust.
This went into a 400 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, and came out as delicious as the individual hand-pies. It’s amazing how such a humble food can be so spectacularly good.