On this day – officially known as Father’s Day (the apostrophe is actually in the wrong place since this day belongs to all fathers) – I’m honouring my father. He was a tall, strapping Yorkshire man, with a thick Yorkshire accent. He grew up in the tiny village of Mytholmroyd and went to school with the young Ted Hughes (later to become the Poet Laureate of Britain) before he, my father, was sent off to Rishworth, a boarding school in West Yorkshire.
My father was what some people might describe as feisty. He was a mad keen hiker and mountaineer. He had an ongoing love affair with France and loved charging around the French countryside driving a Citroen at breakneck speeds. He was opinionated and could be challenging and thought-provoking. He was an engineer and believed relentlessly in the power of science and logic. He was whip smart. He battled cancer, three different types, before he eventually succumbed and I never, ever remember him complaining about being ill or in pain. He was stoic and proud to the bitter end.
But for me, one of the most memorable things about my father was his love of food. As a child, I remember him arriving home from work practically shouting, “What’s for dinner?” Quickly followed by, “What’s for pud?” (the English term for pudding otherwise known as dessert). There was very little my father didn’t like. He was fond of traditional English food – sausages, roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, overcooked vegetables, English cheeses, and steamed puddings like jam roly poly and spotted Dick. But he also loved the food of Europe, especially France – the cheese, the olives, the wine, the charcuterie, good bread, fresh fruit, cakes, rustic tarts, elegant seafood, omelettes, French sausages, cassoulet, wild mushrooms, coq au vin, slow-cooked leg of lamb, pissaladière… He had a taste for blood sausage and liverwurst and chicken liver pate. He liked offal in part because he disliked seeing anything wasted. Really, my father simply loved food. And he was one of those incredibly lucky people with a metabolism revving at such a rate that he never really gained a pound.
My father lived to eat and ate to live. He celebrated life with food. His life was a series of food stories. When I fought with my father he almost always apologized for arguing with me by bringing me chocolate. When he was dying, he recounted in great detail all the food from his youth. And when he traveled, he would eat where the locals ate – trying whatever they were having – sometimes just pointing at the plates of the other diners and miming. Once, while in France, he ate saucisson d’âne and only when he got back to his hotel room and looked up the word âne, did he realize he’d just eaten donkey sausage. He was remorseful because in his youth he had worked on a farm and seen donkeys born – probably the most adorable baby animals imaginable – with their sweet faces and long ears and legs.
So this Father’s day, I got up and with no planning, I wandered into my garden, thought about my father, looked at the mint, and then made these very old-fashioned mint and currant pasties – a great favourite of my father’s.
Mint and Currant Pasties
For the shortcut pastry:
- 225 grams (just less than 1 cup) all-purpose flour
- 100 grams (just less than 1/2 cup) cold butter, cubed
- 3-4 tbsp water
- salt if you’re using unsalted butter
For the filling:
- 2/3 cup dried black currants, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup mint leaves, packed, washed and dried
- 1/2 cup raw sugar such as turbinado or demerara (or brown sugar)
First, make the pastry. Place the flour (and salt if you’re using it) in a mixing bowl, and add the butter. Using a pastry knife, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles clumpy breadcrumbs. Add 3 tbsp water and gently fold the mixture with a spoon until it pulls together. If necessary, add more water, 1 tbsp at a time. Don’t get the dough wet. Knead the dough gently on a floured board until all the flour is incorporated then let it sit while you prepare the filling.
Using a multi-blade herb cutter (I don’t have one) or scissors or your food processor on pulse only, chop the washed mint. Mix the mint, currants, and sugar together. Set aside.
Roll the pastry until it is very thin, on a large, floured surface. Using a large lid or small bowl, cut circles approximately four inches in diameter. Place a tablespoon of the mint mixture into the centre of each pasty. Dip your fingers in a small bowl of cold water and gently dampen around the edge of the pastry. Fold the pastry circle in half and crimp the edges with a fork. Place on a greased tray lined with parchment. Pierce the top with the tines of a fork.
Bake the pasties at 350 deg F until they are browned. I think this was about 20 minutes although I forgot to time them. In hindsight I’d brush the tops with milk so that they brown nicely but I was experimenting here – simply working on the memory of my mother’s mint and currant pasties.