Here we go! I feel like I’m giving away the biggest Cornish pasty recipe secret here.
Finding a Cornish pasty recipe from a local Cornish family is akin to looking for the holy grail.
Most local Cornish families don’t share how they make a Cornish pasty, even though recipes are readily available. We may talk about it amongst ourselves but that’s pretty much it.
From the way we make our rich, buttery shortcrust pastry to the order we add the pasty filling, us Cornish folk all have our own unique way of making a traditional Cornish pasty.
And this is mine.
My mum, Carol, taught me how to make a Cornish pasty, and she was shown by her mum, Doreen. Granny Doreen was told by her mum, Ivy, and so on. You get the picture.
So today you’re in for a treat. Not only will you learn how to make a Cornish pasty, I’ll share our secret of how to make the most delicious, buttery, melt in your mouth, flaky shortcrust pasty.
I’ll also show you how to crimp a pasty properly so you get that nice, neat tucked in edge. It’s my favourite bit of the Cornish pasty; it tastes fantastic dipped in ketchup.
It’s making my mouth water just thinking about it!
The History of the Cornish Pasty
Our humble Cornish pasty goes back to the 13th Century. Even then, it’s believed to have been part of British cuisine, particularly among the wealthy.
Fillings varied and included beef, lamb, venison, and fish. While different types of pasties were eaten all over Britain, by the 1600s it was already a staple of Cornwall’s regional diet.
Cornish pasties have a strong connection with Cornwall’s tin mining industry. The Cornish pasty was considered to be a good, self contained meal for men and boys working down the mines.
Traditionally, the Cornish pasty contains two thirds meat and one third either fruit or jam. The thick crimped crust was used as a handle and wasn’t eaten due to the arsenic dust in the mines. It was usually discarded once finished.
In the mid 1800s, the Cornish pasty even found its way to Michigan as Cornish miners immigrated to help develop mines.
Cornish pasties are very much embedded in our culture, with families passing down recipes from generation to generation. In 2011 the Cornish pasty was granted Protected Geographical Indication from the European Union. This means only pasties made in Cornwall can be called a Cornish pasty.
I guess this puts our beloved Cornish pasty on a similar standing to Champagne, just a lot less posh! (Although the two together would be a good combination.)
What’s In A Traditional Cornish Pasty?
A true Cornish pasty contains potato, swede, onion and beef, plus a little bit of seasoning. They’re usually made with shortcrust pasty, although some prefer puff pastry.
How To Make A Cornish Pasty
Ingredients (makes 2 large Cornish Pasties)
For the pastry
8oz Plain flour
4oz Fat (I used Cookeen for the Cornish pasties pictured here, but half lard and half butter/stork is good), cut into chunks
Chilled water – put in the freezer before you do anything.
1/3 Potato – Maris Piper, sliced
1/4 Swede, sliced
1/3 White onion, finely chopped
150g Beef skirt, chopped.
Salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten.
Preheat the oven to 200º.
Before you start, put a bottle or jug of water in the freezer. You’ll be using this for the pastry.
Add the flour and fat into a mixing bowl. Rub the fat into the flour. To make the best flaky pasty, leave the fat quite lumpy.
Gradually add the chilled water, so the flour mixture comes together.
Once in a ball, place on a floured surface and roll out the pasty. You don’t want it too thick but equally if it’s too thin it will split in the oven.
To cut a circle out of the pasty, I use a plate. For the pasties pictured here, I used a side plate but this recipe allows for 2 large pasties, so feel free to size up and use a dinner plate.
Place the filling in the upper half of your pastry. You’re aiming for a semi circle and leave enough room around the edge for crimping.
Start with slices of potato, then swede. Add the chopped onion, followed by the beef skirt.
Season with salt and pepper, and add a little knob of butter.
Use the beaten egg to brush around the top half of the pastry, then fold the pastry over the filling.
Press the edges together with your fingers, tucking in any beef and vegetables that are trying to escape.
How To Crimp A Cornish Pasty
Crimping takes a little practice. I’m not a perfect pasty crimper. When shooting the video and photos for this post, I found it harder to crimp when I slowed down and started to think about what I was doing. My fingers started to do it differently.
Start at one end of the pasty. You’re aiming for a tuck and fold technique.
Tuck the first bit of pastry in with your thumb and fingers of your left hand and fold over the next bit with your right. Place your left thumb on this folded bit and fold the next bit of pastry over. Keep going until you get to the end.
I usually give my pasty and hug and a squeeze, tucking the in crimped edge.
If you’re cooking them straight away, make a little air hole in the pasty with a knife. If you plan to freeze your uncooked pasties, leave this until they’re ready to go in the oven as the air makes the potatoes go brown.
Brush the top of the pasty with the beaten egg. This will give your pasties a rich golden glaze once out of the oven.
Cook in the oven at 200º for 10 minutes, then reduce to 160º for 30-40 mins.
To check your pasty’s done, lift them up and check the bottom is brown.
No one wants a soggy bottom!
Why not pack up your pasty in brown paper, walk somewhere scenic on a beach or the coast path, and eat outside, taking in the wonderful view.
Or eat at home, either from a bag or plate. Cornish pasties taste great naked, or dipped in tomato sauce (my favourite!).
If you make a Cornish pasty, I’d love to know and see a photo. By all means tag me on Instagram, or add the hashtag, #thegreatcornishoutdoors.