Cornish Pasty

The pasty was the world’s first portable lunch. There are as many questions about exactly what goes into a Cornish pasty as there are recipes. First let it be said that the pasty may not have actually originated in Cornwall, though it certainly became uniquely associated with that county a long time ago. The word ‘pasty’ was used in medieval times to mean a pie containing venison and to distinguish it from a pie which had several different ingredients.

In the past, Cornish pasties were made from whatever was available and were food associated very much with poverty. Thus rabbit, bacon scraps and vegetables would have been the authentic fillings of hard times.

The true Cornish pasty of today is half-moon-shaped and usually made with chuck steak, potatoes and onion, though it may also contain diced turnip, the proportions varying depending on individual preference.

The amount of filling given below is only a rough guide. You could increase the percentage of potato, for example. Chuck, cut from the bladebone of the top forequarter, is considered the ideal beef for this treatment, as it is lean but marbled throughout with connective tissue.

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Ingredients

For the Pastry

  • 675 g/ lb plain flour, sifted
  • 175 g/ 6 oz lard
  • 175 g/ 6 oz butter
  • tsp salt
  • a little iced water

For the Filling

  • 450 g/ 1 lb chuck steak
  • 225 g/ ½ lb potatoes
  • 225 g/ 8 oz onion
  • salt and pepper
  • beaten egg (optional)

Method

First make a short pastry with the flour, lard, butter and salt as described, bound with a little iced water. Cling-wrap the dough and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/ gas 6 and grease a baking tray. Cut the chuck steak into pieces the size of your little fingernail. Chop the potatoes and onion into small dice. (Some purists would say the potatoes should be sliced thinly, then cut into strips.)

Roll the pastry out to a thickness of about 5 ml/ ¼ inch and, using a plate as a guide, cut out 4 circles with a diameter of 15 cm / 6 inches. Distribute the filling ingredients equally between them, putting a layer of potato first, then meat, then onion, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Brush the edge of one half of the pastry with water, bring the other half over and press together firmly to seal. Crimp the edge together in a tight seal and brush with beaten egg (a fancy and possibly heretical suggestion).

Bake on the greased tray in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn down the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas 3 and continue to cook for a further 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold. Pasties may be reheated in a 180°C/350°F/gas 4 oven for 10–15 minutes.

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