The Cornish Pasty was originally created to supply a simple and hearty lunch for tin miners in Cornwall. According to the Cornish Pasty Association, “Miners and farm workers took this portable and easy to eat convenience food with them to work because it was so well suited to the purpose. Its size and shape made it easy to carry, its pastry case insulated the contents and was durable enough to survive, while its wholesome ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long and arduous working days”.
Cornish pasties were awarded the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in 2011 and, according to EU ruling, must be made to the following specifications to be called a Cornish Pasty.
A genuine Cornish pasty has a distinctive ‘D’ shape and is crimped on one side, never on top. The texture of the filling is chunky, made up of uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), swede, potato, onion with a light seasoning. The pastry casing is golden in colour, savoury, glazed with milk or egg and robust enough to retain its shape throughout the cooking and cooling process without splitting or cracking. The pasty is slow-baked and no artificial flavourings or additives must be used. And, perhaps most importantly, it must also be made in Cornwall.
Unfortunately my pasty does not have a ‘distinctive ‘D’ shape’, is not ‘crimped on one side’, does not use ‘uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef ‘and is not ‘slow-baked’. I think it’s fair to say then that my thing is not a Cornish Pasty. Oh, and my pasty wasn’t ‘made in Cornwall’.
My thing, whatever you would call it, is still very nice. Although I did not follow the exact rules it makes for very good eating and made a delicious lunch.
I used the traditional trio of vegetables – potato, onion and turnip. The specifications call for swede but I think I will get away with some turnip. Also, no other vegetable, including carrot, can be put into a pasty. It is apparently sacrilegious to do so.
I cut the vegetables into even sized chunks and boiled them one by one until just tender but still with a bite. I then tossed them with the meat and left them to cool while I got on with the pastry.
Funnily, the specifications don’t say anything about the pastry. The traditional pasty is made with a short pastry and I reckon it would have been made with lard. Personally, I think that pastry must contain butter. Not wanting to anger the Cornish people any more, I settled on 2 parts butter to 1 part lard.
I then added some egg wash to bind the pastry. I just beat two eggs with some water and used some of this in the pastry and the leftover was used to glaze the pasties.
The finished pastry was then wrapped up and placed in the fridge to rest.
I do have a confession to make. My pastry wasn’t right. It was a bit too short, a bit too crumble and caused your mouth to dry out somewhat after eating. I made a basic shortcrust pastry which came out very well but I don’t think that it was the right pastry for these pasties. Traditional Cornish recipes tend to add more liquid into there dough and some even use bread flour to make a more pliable dough. I think that more liquid might make the pastry less dry and crumble so I have adapted the pastry slightly in the recipe below.
The pastry gets rolled out, cut into circles and filled with the meat mixture. Here is where I break the rules again. The Cornish pasty is crimped on one side only. The D-shape enabled tin miners to eat them safely. The crust (crimped edge) was used as a handle which was then discarded due to the high levels of arsenic in many of the tin mines. However I didn’t do this, instead I did something that is often done and crimped them over the top.
However at least I followed one specification. According to EU ruling, a pasty is golden in colour. I’m sure you will all agree that I managed to achieve that.
The below recipe is adapted from Michel Roux’s Pastry book.
For the Filling
450g braising beef, cut into 1.5cm cubes
3 tablespoons oil
300ml beef stock (stock cube is fine)
1 onion, about 180g, chopped
1 potato, about 180g, cut into 5mm dice
1 small swede or turnip, about 180g, cut into 5mm dice
For the Pastry
450 g plain flour
pinch of salt
150g cold butter, cubed
80g cold lard, cubed
- First make the filling. Heat the oil in a deep pan over a high heat and sear the beef, turning the pieces to brown all over. Pour away the fat, then add the stock and simmer gently for an hour until the meat is tender and the stock has evaporated to a sticky glaze.
- In another pan cook the diced vegetables individually in a little salted water for about 10 minutes, or until just tender. Leave to cool in the water, then drain and add to the cooked beef. The mixture should be moist (if it’s dry, add a couple tbsp of cooking water). Leave the mixture to one side.
- For the pastry, place the flour into a mixing bowl and add the butter and lard. Using your fingertips, rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add most of the liquid into the flour and stir with a knife until the mixture begins to clump together (you may not need all of the liquid but use most of it). Gather the dough into a ball with your hands and knead briefly on a work surface until smooth. Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- To make the pasties, roll out the pastry to 2-3mm thickness. Use a 15cm cutter or plate as a guide cut out circles. I managed to make about ten pasties from this recipe.
- Spoon the filling into an oval in the centre of each pastry disc then brush the sides with egg wash. Fold up the sides of the pastry and bring them together to make a raised pasty, pinching hard with your fingertips along the crest to seal the pasty completely. Place on a baking tray and brush with eggwash. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius. Bake the pasties for 25 minutes until nice and golden. To enjoy the pasties at their best, serve at once.
* The liquid used is most often water but most liquids will work such as milk or cream. I like to add egg to my pastry for colour, richness and flavour. What I normally do is crack an egg or two into a measuring jug and add a good splash of water or milk. Beat it together with a fork and this liquid can be used in the pastry and any leftover can be used to glaze the pastry before baking