We Won!

Wednesday night you will generally find us down at the pub having a bite of dinner and enjoying a little friendly competition with the folks who turn up for Quiz Night. I have written about this before on my old blog here and mentioned it in a few other places as well.

John and I tend to be somewhere in the middle of the teams and don’t often move too far up or down in the rankings from week to week. There are some brainy groups who always seem to win or at least finish in the top three, but it’s rarely been us. Well, once we did finish first, but we were part of a team of six instead of our usual two so while it was fun, it didn’t feel as sweet as it did last night.

I have to say here that I always feel a bit of pressure when there is what people in the pub would refer to as an ” American” question. Last night, we played with Jean and Robert who were also at the pasty making competition. They always do well and frequently win or come in second so we had a much better chance right from the beginning than we normally do.

It was a killer quiz and seemed much more difficult than usual and I struggled as I often do to come up with the answers to questions I think of as ” British” questions. One example of this might be a rugby question about a famous player from 1970. Now there is no way I am going to get a question like that one right, but the pressure is always on when it’s about something related to American trivia.

Last night’s combination of Jean, Robert, and John left little for me to do much of the time as they were usually whispering the answers to each other while I was still digesting the question. In fact, there were only two questions I answered that my teammates needed help on and while I knew a few others, they were the type most of us would know.

I am often teased here in a good-naturedly way about my competitiveness which I prefer to laughingly call enthusiasm. One example of my “Enthusiastic nature ” might be the difference in how I react when the answers are read at the end of the quiz. In a room full of people who at most give off a soft murmuring sound when they’ve found they have answered a tough question correctly, my loud ” YES! ” coming out of the corner tends to draw a bit of attention.

Last night, there were two questions like this for us, questions that I answered that no one on our team could answer. I can’t remember them both, but the one that stands out was, ” What was Nancy Reagan’s maiden name ?”  It seems easy until everyone looks at you for the answer since it’s an American question and for a few minutes I was blank only remembering it when I thought of her daughter Patti Davis who used her mother’s maiden name after disagreeing with her father’s politics.

After we placed first, I was excited, but felt like it was more their victory than mine as I had only known two answers that they couldn’t get on their own. This morning though I can see it a bit differently. While writing the details of last nights win, I just realized that the points difference last night between first and second place was … two questions.

This is the regular team of folks that Jean and Robert usually play with on quiz night. Robert and Jean are in the darker purple shirts at one end of the table with Helen and Jeff at the other. Karen is sitting in between Jean and Jeff and has moved back to Canada recently freeing up a spot on their team. Jeff and Helen couldn’t be there last night so we joined Jean and Robert to create the Anglo-American Alliance.

And The Winner Of The 2010 Best Pasty Is

I wanted this so bad I could taste it, but the winner of the 2010 Pasty Contest was…

… not me! The winning pasty was made by Rebecca, the woman you see above. I have to admit her Scotch egg pasty was spicy and delicious and as you can see below, beautifully made.

Competition was fierce among 21 contestants and while I scored a respectable 120 points, the winning numbers were 139, 134, and 129. Second place was captured by Pauline who rushed in late and whipped up a Pigeon pasty that earned her a spot in the winners circle.

Robert and Ian, who made their pasties on the same table tied for third. Robert, who you see closest to you is rolling out the pastry for what will be his stuffed to the max haggis and potato pasty while Ian is almost ready to begin putting his rabbit pasty together with onions and a bit of mustard sauce. With key ingredients such as rabbit, pigeon, haggis, and scotch egg making up the winning pasties, you might wonder what of some of the others 17 varieties of pasties contained.

There were several versions of spicy indian mixtures along with lamb, beef, and chicken. A Christmas pudding pasty with cheese and chillies along with several fish pasties added options for snacking and included Helen’s smoked halibut, cod, and asparagus combination which looked really yummy. Several contained breakfast ingredients that included baked beans and black pudding. I must admit that I gave those a miss. I can’t yet get my taste buds around black pudding no matter how good people say it is.

That’s Len’s pasty ready for the fold over, but first …

…  he decided he needed a quick break below …

… for some liquid refreshment leaving his wife Mary hard at work on her own above.

We made pasties in shifts at the tables while others strolled around offering praise or advice while checking out the competition.

Robert gives his wife Jean’s ( that’s Jean, who sometimes comments on my blog) pasty technique a good look after putting his entry in the oven.

Next to Jean is Helen, who came up with the pasty-making party idea and did all the work to make it successful right down to making the great looking award you saw Rebecca holding in the photograph above.

That’s me in the apron working next to Kate. She made three pasties while I was still finishing up my first one, but she did say she used to make them in a shop so she’d had a bit of practice. My pasty took a bit longer too because I made something no longer seen in the area, a two course pasty with a sweet on one end.  It was the only two course pasty in the competition and Gary, one of the judges said later that he really liked the sweet part of mine in particular.

A two course pasty requires a little pastry to separate the sweet from the savory. Can you tell what’s inside mine yet?

After the making …

came the baking …

… and then the waiting …

… until it was time for the tasting.

The three judges went first. I need to add here that Gary, David and Griz each ate seven pasties over the course of the evening and the variety of ingredients made some less appealing to me than others so a big well done to all three judges.

As they came out of the oven, the judges took one pasty from each plate and split it three ways leaving two to be taste tested and judged by the other pasty makers who each had a chance to leave a number and a vote behind.

We’ll call it the people’s vote. It was only a small percentage of the total score, but seeing what your plate looked like after the table was rushed by the hungry hoards, did a bit to ease the disappointment of not winning later.

Number three on the end is my pasty sitting next to the scotch egg pasty that won first prize.

Here is a look at my plate ( number three ) after the other contestants had a taste. So while it’s not a trophy, I think the empty plate reflects public opinion fairly well. Some of us laughed about the competitiveness of Americans, but I think there were a few other people who coveted that trophy as well.

Now down to the nitty gritty, packed inside my Cornish pasty was a decidedly Un-Cornish set of ingredients. It contained a mix perfect for a tailgate party or a 4th of July celebration. With slow cooked pulled pork barbecue, a bit of coleslaw and smattering of cheddar cheese filling the main section, there was also a tiny bit of dessert tucked on the end made from a sweet potato pie mixture that included brown sugar and pecans. It really was pretty yummy or scrummy as one might say here.

Now I need to say that I am really just teasing about being so disappointed in not winning … I had a great time and I learned a lot about making a local dish. In addition to a fun evening there was a fund raising element involved as there so often is at these kind of events. After the small expense of the village hall rental, and a few other things, we had 45 pounds left to donate to Shelter Box, an international disaster relief charity that has it’s headquarters here in Cornwall.

Thanks again to Helen and her partner Ron who did so much work to make the event run smoothly and to the judges Gary, Griz and David.

Cornish Pasty Competition – Bringing It To The Table

Today is a big day for me. I am going to be participating in pasty making competition here in the village in a couple of hours and I am so excited. When I told my step-mom Cullene about the contest the other day, she said, ” I never thought I would hear that you had entered a cooking competition.”  I worked so much when I lived in America that I barely had time or energy to think about proper meal planning and saved any cooking beyond the basics for special meals. So until a few years ago, I would have laughed at the idea too. Living in Cornwall has brought out some skills I didn’t know I had and the luxury of time to explore new areas is a gift I don’t take for granted.

Although today’s pasty competition is mostly an excuse for a party with some friendly competitiveness thrown in, I have to admit that I am taking it pretty seriously. The winning part doesn’t really matter as I have had such a good time preparing a taste of the American south to go inside my Cornish pasty, but you know … it might be kind of cool to win too.

I just finished a trial run to see if I could get the twisty fold-over thing down that you do along the edge. It’s a bit tricky, but I think I managed a respectable job. We have to make three identical pasties and we will be judged on taste, presentation, and innovation in the filling. It ought to be a fun evening and I will be taking lots of photographs to share with you later.

I’ll leave you with a little quote from a famous chef that is beginning to make more sense to me now …

“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”

~Julia Child