A British Pub Twist

by Marina Chotzinoff

We were invited to a friend’s house last week to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics. This was exciting as we have no television at our house and I was looking forward to seeing commercials for all the shows and products most other people were aware of. It was also nerve wracking as it was a costume party and we had to come as our favorite Olympian. Not only did I not have any random sporty soccer type outfits, but I was damned if I was going to show up in a swimsuit or leotard. And so, naturally, I focused on the other requirement: to bring a dish from one of the participating countries.

At first I wanted to cook something from the least represented country on the list. I found that there was one, sole, competitor from South Sudan (or really known as Independent Athletic Athlete) which did not have an Olympic committee. As I browsed the other least represented countries it became clear most specialized in fish stews, root purees and other dishes I like in winter or possibly other dinners. But I wanted something more hors d’ouevre-y. And that is when I thought of cornish pasties.┬áIt did not hurt that the weekly Food52 contest was “your best pub food.”

As I recalled the pasties of my past, many involved stuffings of beef stew-like ingredients, heavy in sauce and potato. As I thought more about my London culinary experience, however, I recalled the best chicken tikka masala I had ever had. It was more tomato-y than creamy and came out sizzling and aromatic on some sort of giant metal plate. I decided to stuff the pasties with a masala of sorts and in an attempt to take a small step back to stew-y I chose lamb. But then I took a step sideways and chose ground lamb, with which I would make a sausage of sorts that would be grilled and then simmered in the sauce. And because I was now making a masala-pasty-samosa type item I also wanted a cool, cucumber raita type sauce.

I gathered some spices and mixed the lamb, refrigerating until the next day. I then formed the meat on a couple skewers and grilled it until it was just charred. I cooked up a bubbling pan of tomato, onion, garlic, coconut milk and spices, stirred in potatoes, peas, crumbled lamb and cilantro. Next was the pastry. Sigh.

I am not much of a baker, but one thing I have always been able to do was make a decent pie crust. Somehow, though, the first batch felt crumbly and strange- possibly due to the heat- and I could not get it to come together. As we were headed to the party in an hour, I grabbed some tiny phyllo cups at the store which worked surprisingly well. The sauce was a lemon zest tinged cucumber, yoghurt sauce and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

The next day, though, I was determined to get a real pasty and used the basic pastry recipe from the Joy of Cooking. Thankfully they turned out and made for a lovely lunch.

1 pound ground lamb
3 teaspoons garam masala, divided
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
14 ounces can whole tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups red potatoes, small dice
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup peas
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar (to taste depending on sweetness of tomatoes)

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup shortening, very cold
8 ounces butter, very cold
6-8 tablespoons ice water
1 pinch salt
1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup cucumber, grated with short strokes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
s&p to taste

Mix lamb, 1 t. garam masala, 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. each cumin, coriander, pepper and garlic. Refrigerate overnight. Form into sausages on skewers (or free form) and grill until slightly charred. Let cool.

Saute onion in some oil over medium heat until the edges begin to brown. Add garlic, ginger, 2 t. garam masala and a 1/2 t. salt. Stir until fragrant. Add tomatoes and potatoes and cook until thickened and potatoes are tender. Mix in coconut milk, crumbled sausage and peas and stir until thick. Fold in cilantro, chili garlic and add bit of sugar if you like. Allow to cool.

I used just the pastry recipe from Joy of Cooking. Put the flour and salt in a food processor, add cubed, cold butter and shortening and pulse until it is gravelly. Add the ice water until it begins to come together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple hours.

Toss cucumbers with salt and allow to drain about 1/2 hour. Mix with remaining ingredients. You can add hot sauce if you wish.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness, cut 6″ circles, place a mound of filling in the center, brush the edges with egg and crimp to form a half circle. Brush all tops with more egg and bake about 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

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