Tender peppery chunks of beef mixed with melt-in-your-mouth vegetables, all wrapped up in buttery golden pastry. The Cornish Pasty is one of the most famous foods to come out of the south of England, and I can completely understand why the Cornish folk have so much pride in this tasty hand-held meal.
We recently got back from a week in Cornwall, and ate a fair few Cornish pasties whilst wandering around beautiful little coastal towns. My daughter shockingly announced on one occasion that she’d rather have a Cornish pastie than an ice cream! She was delighted when I told her we could make some ourselves when we got back home.
The Cornish pastie goes back hundreds of years, but they’re most commonly known to have been a staple food of the poorer classes going back to the 18th century. Miners used to take the pasties into the tin mines, and they’d be nutritious and filling enough to keep the workers going all day. The specific shape of the pastie was thought to have come around for good reason too. The crimped crust on the side was used as a kind of handle. The levels of arsenic in the tin mines meant that the miners hands would be grubby and likely covered in this highly toxic substance. So the miners would hold onto the crust to eat their pastie, and then discard it.
Personally I love the crust, but I think I could be persuaded to chuck it away if it was covered in arsenic!!
The pasties are filled with a mixture of well seasoned steak, onions, potatoes and swede (or rutabaga/yellow turnip if you’re in the US). The meat and vegetables are placed in the pastry raw, with a really good pinch of salt and pepper, then sealed and cooked in the pastry. There’s no sauce inside the pasty, but the cooked filling ends up so tender and moist that it’s not needed.
I used a recipe from the Hairy Bikers for these pasties
- 450g plain flour (plus a couple of tbsp extra for rolling out the pastry and sprinkling on the tray later)
- 2tsp baking powder
- 1tsp salt
- 125g unsalted butter, chopped
- 2 egg yolks
- 125ml cold water
- 450g potato, peeled and finely diced
- 150g swede/rutagaba, peeled and finely diced
- 150g onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 300g thin sliced skirt steak or sirloin, finely chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 40g butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- First make your pastry. Place your flour, baking powder and salt into a food processor and give a quick mix. Add in your butter and whizz until the mixture turns into breadbrumbs. Add in the egg yolks and mix, then, with the motor on, add in the water a bit at a time until the dough comes together into a ball. You may not need all the water. Take the pastry out of the food processor, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 180c. Take two large baking trays and sprinkle them with some flour. Take your pastry out of the fridge and roll out on a floured surface until you get a thickness you can cut, that won't tear easily. I find that's about 4-5mm. Cut circles into the dough using a plate that about 20-21cm diameter as a template. I find that I get 3 circles out of the first lot. Then I re-roll and get 2 circles, and then I re-roll and get one final circle. You can place the circles stacked onto a plate so long as you have a sprinkling of flour between each layer.
- In a large bowl, mix your potato, swede/rutagaba, onion, steak, salt and pepper. Take one of your pastry circles, place it onto your work surface. Place a really good handful of the meat mix onto half of the circle, leaving a 2cm border around the edge. It'll look like a lot of mixture, but it needs to be packed full. Dot a little butter (from the 40g butter) on top of the meat and veg pile. Take your beaten egg, and using a pastry brush, paint a little of the egg around the edge of the circle. This will help the pastry stick together. Now, fold the other side of the pastry over the meat until the edges meet and you have a semi circle. Seal firmly and crimp with your fingers (I found a good method of crimping about 2 mins into this video by the Cornish pasty association). Place your pasty onto your baking tray and make a little hole in the top using a sharp knife to let out the steam. Repeat with the remaining pasties. Brush the remaining egg wash over the top of the pasties and place in the oven for 50 minutes until golden brown.
- Take out of the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before eating.