Celebrating British Food & Cooking
Cornish pasties are part of the English culinary heritage dating from the reign of Edward III way back in the 14th century.
Unfortunately, we can’t claim to have invented the term pasty, that honour goes to our continental neighbours across the English Channel in France. It basically means a pie without a dish.
The association with Cornwall, a county in the southwest of England, began in the 1800s with the pasty being adopted as a way to package a meal in a pastry case for Cornish tin miners. It was not practical for the miners to come to the surface for food and the pasty was easy to carry.
The ‘D’ shape pasty we know today is also credited to the miners. The crust can be used as a handle and discarded afterwards so as not to contaminate the contents. Mining for tin ore is associated with other chemicals found alongside like arsenic. Not what you want in your lunch!
Before we go to the recipe, here are a few Cornish Pasty facts:
- Believe it or not, you make pasties either left (cock) or right-handed (a hen)! It’s in the crimping apparently?
- Cornwall produces 120 million genuine pasties each year, worth £300million.
- Pasties are of protected origin under UK law, previously EU law.
- Over 5% of Cornish farm produce goes into pasties annually.
- The beef used in the filling is skirt from the diaphragm muscle because of its flavour.
- Last but not least, the chant “oggy, oggy, oggy” and its reply “oi, oi, oi” is reputed to have come from the miner’s wives announcing the arrival of the pasties, and the miner’s response.
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Make Them Genuine
A genuine Cornish pasty contains only a few simple ingredients, beef, potato, swede, onion and seasoning. It needs a robust pastry, either puff or shortcrust so it can travel.
Lastly, unlike pie fillings, pasties are assembled using raw ingredients and everything cooks together. They must also be crimped on the side and glazed with egg wash.
There are many recipes on the web including Jamie Oliver’s ones for chicken and vegetarian versions but none of these makes the real thing.
For the Pastry
- 500 grams strong white flour aka Bread Flour
- 100 grams white vegetable fat or lard if preferred
- 150 grams butter or cooking margerine
- 1 tsp salt
- 175 ml cold water
For the Pasty Filling
- 400 grams beef skirt diced 1cm thick
- 400 grams potatoes peeled and sliced or diced 1cm thick
- 200 grams swede peeled and diced 1cm thick
- 220 grams onions diced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
For the Glaze
- 1 egg beaten
To make the pastry
- Put the flour into a large bowl with the salt and rub in the vegetable fat and butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Add most of the water and mix with a knife until the dough starts to come together.
- Add more water if the pastry feels dry but not too much as you don’t want a wet and sticky dough.
- Cover the pastry with cling film or put into a polythene bag and leave it to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.
For the filling
- In another large bowl, mix together well all of the ingredients except the egg and leave to stand until you are ready to assemble the pasties.
Assembling the Pasties
- Roll out the chilled pastry to 4mm thick. Cut circles from the pastry using a tea plate or side plate as a guide. You can make them any size you want but you may as well have something you can get your teeth into! My tea plates measure 19cm across so if you use this size you will get 6 large pasties from this amount of pastry.
- Divide the filling into 6 equal portions. These should be roughly about 200 grams each.
- Pile a portion of the filling onto the centre of one of the circles of pastry.
- Brush the beaten egg around the edge of half of the circle of pastry then bring the other half over the filling to enclose it and seal the edges together.
- Press the edges together firmly then crimp the edges in the classic rope style to seal everything inside.
- Glaze with the egg wash and put onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Do the same with the other circles of pastry – you may need 2 baking sheets.
- Bake the pasties in the centre of a preheated warm oven – Gas 4 / 180°C / 350°F/ Fan 160°C Fan for 1 hour or until nicely golden brown.
- When cooked, place onto a wire rack to cool before devouring still slightly warm – delicious!