Monday, May 19, 2014

It Ain’t Cornish, But It’s A Pasty

Cornish pasties are one of those food conundrums. Born as a convenient and rather humble packed lunch for those out working in the fields or mines, with no pretensions to grandeur, they are now a cherished part of the Cornish heritage and guarded by a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), with heated debate and irate comments lathered around the web under any recipe that dares to call itself a Cornish pasty, if it breaks any one of the number of rules. One of those rules being that it has to be made in Cornwall, I’m putting a disclaimer in right from the start. This is not a recipe for a Cornish pasty.

I’ve broken too many other rules in creating a tasty version of a pasty anyway; the most important of them is that I’ve used carrot instead of swede – a huge No No among the defenders of the Cornish pasty heritage. In fact I’m wondering if when we visit Cornwall next we’ll be met by a pasty posse at the River Tamar and be refused entry on the grounds of defiling the reputation of the pasty. (Oh and don’t tell anyone Cornish, but I used mince rather than chopped beef skirt here, because it’s easier and cheaper and after all I’m making a meal for the family here, not re-enacting a historical event.)

Another hotly-defended rule that I’ve kept to, is that the pasty should be crimped along the side, not over the top (which is apparently a habit of those in the next county along, Devon). If you want to adapt this recipe to make the genuine article, you’ll need to use finely sliced beef skirt and swede, rather than mince and carrots, then, as long as you are in Cornwall at the time, you may be justified in calling it a Cornish pasty!

My latest pasty showing my best efforts at crimping

So with all that said, my main aim was to find a pastry recipe that would do the job. It needs to be strong enough to hold the filling and be easily transportable without breaking open, with a hint of a flake for lightness once you bite in. Don’t even think of using puff pastry here though, you want the firmness and crispness of shortcrust. I tried several recipes before coming up with one that I think is just right and my investment in really good lard paid off. Now I just need to find a more affordable source of that homely fat and convince the kids that it’s not too gross for words!

All in all the pasties were a big success with whole family and are a wonderful example of how you don’t need fancy ingredients to make something really scrumptious.

Cornish pasties are a D-shape, crimped at the side. This is my second attempt with rather dodgy crimping!

Not a Cornish Pasty Recipe
500g white bread flour
100g lard
45g butter
5g/1 teaspoon salt
175g iced water

350g beef (mince or finely sliced skirt)
350g potato
200g carrot
200g onion
Salt and pepper
25g butter
Beaten egg to glaze

Makes 6 pasties

Rub the lard and butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Gradually mix in the cold water and knead until it comes together in a pliable dough. You may need slightly more or less water depending on your flour.

Roll the pastry into a long cylinder shape and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for at least an hour in the fridge to rest.

Finely chop the vegetables. I’ve made them into fairly small dice, but the more traditional method is to cut them in thin slices. Whichever you choose they should be small enough to cook through evenly without any pre-cooking.

Mix the meat with the vegetables and season generously to taste with salt and pepper. There is no other added flavouring so don’t stint here.

Divide the pastry into six even pieces. Roll each disk out to a circle roughly 22cm/8 inches in diameter.
Divide the filling between them.
On each heap of filling place a generous sliver of butter.

Use a little of the beaten egg to moisten the edge of the pastry and fold one side over to meet the other.
Press to seal.
Now crimp the edges. Start at one corner and fold the bottom piece over and pinch it together all the way along the edge to make a good seal.
Brush the rest of the beaten egg over each pasty.
Pierce a hole in the top to allow steam to escape

Bake at 200C/400F for the first 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/350F for another 25 minutes. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes before serving, as they are hot! Also good eaten cold for picnics and haymaking.


  1. I realised there was an argument about whether you crimped the top or sides but I never knew that the one at the top was a Devon version. You live and learn. Our local butcher makes wonderful (not) Cornish Pasties. I suppose they are Cheshire Pasties. Yours sound wonderful - I'm hungry now.

    1. I only found out about the hot issues around pasties when I started looking online for authentic recipes and saw all the outraged comments, especially around the heinous crime of substituting carrots for the swede!

  2. Oh, Kit - you've hit on one of my all-time favorite foods! One of the reasons I'm so crazy about our yearly trek to the Scottish Highland Games at Old Westbury Gardens is the food trucks selling meat pies, bridies, and pasties! Don't forget the HP sauce... that's a MUST! I have also produced unique versions of these wonderful foods in my own kitchen. I don't worry too much about trying to be authentic, I just want it to taste good. There is just no way on earth I'm getting the proper ingredients in a Long Island grocery store, anyway. That just makes the ones I get at the games that much more wonderful!


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!