My grandmother used to live in the Lake District in Northern England (AKA Cumbria.) Her cottage was in a tiny hamlet called Applethwaite, which was nestled at the foot of a beautiful heather-covered mountain called Skidaw – the 4th highest in the British Isles.
We’d get a lot of mileage out of this little -known fact as kids, because how many of our friends in my school back in the South of England had climbed the 4th highest mountain in England in less than 1 hour!! (total exaggeration.)
Her little white cottage smelled of old books, beeswax furniture polish, and lilacs. Granny would go down to the basement with her coal scuttle every morning and haul it back upstairs piled with shiny, black lumps of coal. I can just see her kneeling down on an old towel as she brushed out the powdery ash from the night before into a large piece of newspaper, and re-set a fresh fire for the day.
Granny made everything from scratch – everybody did. There was no such thing as a supermarket or convenience food. She lived opposite a sheep farm and next door to a cow farm – so she was more than sorted for meat and dairy. She grew many of her own fruits and veggies, including raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and even rhubarb.
We’d go stay with granny for two glorious Summer weeks annually. Everyday was spent poking around in shallow, icy brooks, climbing mountains, swimming in deep, green lakes. We’d come home exhausted to granny’s comfort food. She cooked the simplest of dishes, but perfectly: salty boiled ham with buttery mash, and creamy parsley sauce; and Shepherd’s Pie with bright green peas fresh from her garden. The most memorable dessert was one of granny’s “pasties”. In Cumbria they didn’t call them pies or pastries – they called them “pasties” (Pah-stee) Granny’s pastie was made with either rhubarb, gooseberries, blackcurrants or a mix of raspberries and redcurrants. Unlike many of the deep dish fruit pies we are used to nowadays, with their sickly/too sweet filling, Granny’s pasties were the perfect mouthful of light buttery pastry and slightly tart fruit. She always served it with thick double cream – which is like a thicker version of heavy whipping cream. This cream was unadulterated (raw,) as it came from the Ray’s farm next door.
Cut to Los Angeles!! Our farmer’s markets are overflowing with the most gorgeous stone fruits and organic berries right now, so I thought I’d have a go at Granny’s Pastie. My mom remembers exactly how she made it – no recipe of course. I made it yesterday ostensibly to take to a dinner party, but I was so greedy that I couldn’t let it out of the house, and had to rustle something totally different up for the party. Late last night when we came home, we all sat around the kitchen table late and ate an enormous slice of pastie each, covered with whipped cream. Actually, as I like to avoid too much dairy, I ate mine with a fake cream product (vegan,) called Mimiccreme. Not as sublime as whipped cream I have to admit, but a good nutty-tasting substitute.
Granny’s 3 Berry Pastie
Flaky Pie Crust
1cup whole wheat flour
1cup pastry or unbleached all-pupose flour
1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter, cut into chunks
About 4 tbsp ice cold water
I like to “rub” the butter into the flour by hand. So place the flour and butter in a medium bowl and set to work. It’ll only take 5 minutes and is really therapeutic.
When you have a mixture, which sort of resembles “crumbles”, mix in the salt and sugar.
Flour a surface or large wooden board and roll out the pastry. As you are using a whole wheat flour, it may crack a bit at the edges as you roll it out, but no worries because you’ll be cutting the edges off. When you’ll rolled it out to a size that is clearly bigger than the round baking tin, carefully roll it around rolling pin to help transfer it to tin and unroll over the tin. Push the pastry into the tin and use excess around the edges to patch up holes.
4cups mixed berries ( I used raspberries, blackberries and blueberries)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4cup brown sugar (I used Coconut Palm Sugar, which I love – from Whole Foods.)
Mix all the filling ingredients in a bowl, making sure flour doesn’t clump. Transfer this mixture into the pie dish.
Roll out the remaining dough for the top of the pie. Cut two slits in the top and glaze the pie with a milk or egg wash.
Place in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
You can either eat it hot, room temperature or cold – all 3 work. I recommend keeping it out of the fridge if you are eating it the next day, as the pastry will stay light and buttery.