Cornish Pasties are like a hand held version of a meat pie. You can eat them with a knife and fork too but according to the PGI they can only be filled with beef, potato, turnip and onion and the only seasoning can be salt and pepper. They’re then folded into a D shape and baked. The rules are strict, but only if you’re planning to sell them so there’s no need to worry about making them at home.
Cornish Pasties originated in the county of Cornwall, England. Pasty is pronounced with a short “a” vowel so it rhymes with nasty, not tasty. Which is unfair. And ironic since they’re pretty good! And yes, it’s Pasty, not pastry. The short version of the story behind Cornish Pasties goes like this. Men who worked in the mines brought them for lunches because they could easily be eaten by hand. The edges of the pastry were left thick and large enough to be used as a handle and then tossed, since the men wouldn’t have anywhere to wash their hands. They were filling enough to satisfy a miner working a long shift yet small enough to be easily portable.Jump to Recipe
Who doesn’t love pub food? Well, I sure do. I had my first Cornish Pasty in an Irish pub in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s been on my list to make for a long time and I’ve finally gotten around to sharing the recipe.
What if I don’t want to make pastry?
Don’t even worry about it. If you aren’t up for making your own, you can buy frozen pie shells which are just about the right size. Dust your counter with flour, remove the crust from the foil pan and trim off the raised edge. Don’t try to fold them until the dough has warmed up to room temperature, otherwise it will break.
But don’t let the thought of making pastry scare you off from making Cornish Pasties. The dough is quite easy to work with. In fact, you can reuse the trimmings to roll out additional circles that are just as good as the first ones. This shortcrust dough has lots of butter and when baked is light and flaky.
A food processor is the quickest way to make pastry. Pulse everything together until it’s a rough mess, not completely combined. Then pour onto some plastic wrap, press together and seal well. Like most pastry dough, short crust likes to have a chill before rolling out. And I mean chill both literally and figuratively. Cooling and letting the dough rest is best for optimal results. You only need to give it about half an hour, long enough to get the filling ready. You can leave it in the fridge for a few hours or even over night but it needs to sit at room temperature for a bit before rolling out, otherwise your dough will fall apart and crack easily at the edges.
What are Cornish Pasties filled with?
The traditional beef in Cornish Pasties is skirt steak. Make sure to cut the meat against the grain into strips before cutting into cubes because it can be a bit tough. I wouldn’t recommend beef brisket. I learned that from experience so you don’t have to. It was too tough. Strip loin steak works well too and has a nice flavour. The meat goes in raw but I have to admit, I’ve used leftover roast beef and it’s a pretty good back up plan.
In addition to beef, the rest of the filling is simply onion, turnip (or rutabaga or swede depending on where you live) and potatoes. Season well with salt and pepper. There’s no liquid in the filling, otherwise it would leak out and make the pastry soggy.
Pile the filling on one half of your pastry circles, leaving a little room at the edge. It’s tempting to load up the pasties with lots of filling but you need to be able to seal them too so it’s a balance. Top with a few dabs of butter and a little sprinkle of flour. Brush some egg wash around the outer edge, then carefully fold in half and press down to seal the edges.
The traditional Cornish Pasty edge is rolled or folded over then crimped to ensure it stays together during baking. I like to use a roll and squeeze method. Lay your pasties on a baking sheet with parchment paper and make a few small dents in the top to allow steam to release while baking. Give them a good brush with the remaining egg wash. This way you get a really nice shiny golden pastry.
Make sure you let your Cornish Pasties cool after coming out of the oven. This way the filling will set just enough that it doesn’t tumble out when you cut into it. Just like a fruit pie, a little flour and butter help thicken and set the filling. There isn’t a lot of moisture inside. I wouldn’t exactly call them dry but we enjoy them with a little chili sauce.
Here’s the recipe:
Short Crust Pastry
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour 315 grams
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅓ cup cold lard, cut into cubes 100 grams
- ⅓ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes 100 grams
- ½ cup ice water 120 mls
- ½ lb skirt steak, strip steak or similar cut of beef 225 grams
- ½ lb potatoes 225 grams
- ¼ lb turnip (rutabaga) 115 grams
- ¼ cup minced onion 60 grams
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 egg, well whisked for brushing and sealing
- unsalted butter for dabbing on top of filling
- flour for rolling pastry and sprinkling over filling
- Prepare pastry by combining flour, salt, butter and lard in food processor. Pulse in short bursts until mixture resembles large crumbs.
- Add cold water in small amounts with short pulses between. When mixture is chunky but not completely combined, pour onto plastic wrap. Seal completely and press into a disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- Cut beef against the grain into strips, then slice into small pieces.
- Peel and cube potatoes and turnip. Add to beef mixture. Mince onion and add to filling. Season with salt and pepper and combine.
- Divide pastry into 4 sections. Roll each section on a well floured surface into a circle just over 8 inches or 20 cm in diameter. Pastry should not be too thin. Using a plate or round flat template, lay on rolled out dough and cut into neat circle. Roll out, fill and seal each pasty before rolling out the next to prevent dough from drying out. Cover remaining dough while working on each pasty.
- To assemble the pasty, spoon about ¼ of the filling mixture on one half of the circle, leaving room at the edges for sealing. Top with 3-4 small dabs of butter and a sprinkle of flour. Brush outer edge of pastry with egg wash, fold pastry in half and press to seal. Roll pastry edge and squeeze to complete the seal and decorate edge.
- Lay completed pasties on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Brush generously with egg wash and cut 2 small slits in the top of each one to allow steam to escape.
- Bake on the centre rack of a preheated oven at 350° for 40-45 minutes until pasties are golden brown.
- Allow to cool at least 10 minutes. Can be eaten hot or room temperature.