Cornish Pasties

This is a nineteenth-century recipe from a farm near Talland, and makes the most excellent pasties. The pasty was the perfect meal for farmer or fisherman, and many Cornishmen have always been both. Many different raw materials, sweet and savoury, were made up as pasties according to what was available and whether meat could be afforded. On baking day, while the bread was proving, a pasty was made for each member of a family and marked with their initials on one corner. In this way, individual tastes could be allowed for: onion could be omitted for some; more meat could be given to the men than to the small children; some preferred bacon and potato to a beef and potato filling. The initials had another advantage. The pasty owner ate from the other end. Thus, if he was forced to lay his pasty down while he attended to some emergency, whether at sea or in the fields, he and his companions knew which was his pasty.

The pasties taken by the men to work were hot from the oven, whether freshly made or reheated, and were wrapped in a cloth before being put into a lunch tin. They were probably not very hot when eaten, but even cold, they are savoury and filling. Of course, when times were hard, they often contained only potato or breadcrumbs with cheese or onion or leek. Sometimes they were made with pilchards or mackerel from the last catch. Here, however, I shall give the three fillings most used when times were good. A pasty should never contain mince or meat which has already been cooked.

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Ingredients

The Pastry

  • 1 lb (½ kg) flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 stick (120 g) butter
  • ½ cup (120 g) lard
  • 1 egg, well beaten

Filling 1

  • ¾ lb (360 g) frying steak, cut in ¼ inch (0.5 cm) dice, all skin and fat discarded
  • ½ lb (240 g) potatoes, peeled and cut in ½inch (1 cm) dice
  • 2 onions, peeled and very finely chopped
  • A little stock
  • Salt and pepper

Filling 2

  • ¾ lb (360 g) lamb, from the fillet end of the leg cut in ¼ inch (0.5 cm) dice, all skin and fat discarded
  • ½ lb (240 g) potatoes, peeled and cut in ½inch (1 cm) dice
  • 2 onions, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into ¼ inch (0.5 cm) pieces
  • A little stock
  • Salt and pepper

Filling 3

  • 4 slices lean bacon, cut in fine strips
  • 3 leeks, well washed and chopped very fine
  • cup (60 g) fresh fine white breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons clotted or double cream
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Mix the flour and salt together. Rub in the fat until the mixture has the texture of fine breadcrumbs. Mix with very cold water to form a stiff paste. Add the water gradually and use more if the crumbs are not all taken up, so that the dough leaves the bowl clean.

Roll out the pastry to about inch (0.25 cm) thick and cut 6 circles about 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter.

Mix all the ingredients for any one of the fillings in a bowl and season well. Put about tablespoons of the mixture in the centre of each pastry circle. Brush all round the edges of the pastry with egg and bring them together over the top of the filling, crimping them as you go, so that you have a kind of border all along the top of the pastry. Cut a small slit in the centre of the top just below the border and mark initials in one corner, being careful not to cut right through the pastry.

Bake at 350°F (180°C, Gas Mark 4) near the top of the oven for 20 minutes and then for a further 40 minutes lower in the oven. If the pasties seem to be getting too brown, lay a sheet of foil lightly over them.

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