Traditional Cornish pasty

Traditional Cornish pasty

By
From
The Tivoli Road Baker
Makes
8
Photographer
Bonnie Savage and Alan Benson

I grew up eating traditional pasties made by my Gran – good skirt steak with onion, potato, swede and nothing else except generous seasoning. The pasty is unique in that the filling and the pastry are assembled raw, and everything bakes at the same time. The meat must be cut, never minced. Vegetables must be sliced or chipped, never cubed. And definitely no peas! When times were lean, the steak was replaced with extra potato and butter to aid the gravy. The pastry acts as a pressure cooker and, once baked, it’s left so the filling can stew inside and finish cooking. A pasty is a meal in itself, with no room for more food, just a nice cup of tea.

These days when I go home, our first excursion from Penzance is usually the 16-kilometre (10-mile) drive to Ann’s Pasty Shop down at Lizard Point. We buy our pasties, wander down to the lighthouse and eat them, and I know I’m home.

Pasty pastry

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
700g plain
1/2 teaspoon salt
130g lard, in small chunks, chilled
130g unsalted butter, in 1 cm (½ in) dice, chilled
360g water, chilled

Method

  1. To make the pastry, combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the lard and rub it into the flour with your hands until well combined.
  2. Add the well chilled butter and rub it into the flour until it has broken up but there are still pea-sized lumps of butter visible. Pour in the chilled water and continue to mix by hand until you have a smooth and soft dough. You still want to see some streaks of butter, so be careful not to overmix. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight.

Filling

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
400g brown onion (approx. 2 large onions)
280g swede (approx. 1 medium swede)
280g old floury potato (approx. 2–3 potatoes), such as desiree, sebago, maris piper or king edward
800g skirt or chuck steak, diced into 1 cm (½ in) pieces

Method

  1. Peel and roughly chop the onions, swede and potato into roughly 1 cm (½ in) sized, randomly shaped, pieces.
  2. Combine the beef and vegetables in a large bowl, but don’t season the mix until you have the pastry ready and you’re about to assemble the pasties. This is to avoid the salt drawing water out and creating a wet mess – you want that moisture to come out during cooking, to create a gravy inside the pasty.

Assembly

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 egg, lightly beaten

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (370°F). Generously flour the bench; this allows the pastry to relax as you roll it. Take the pastry out of the fridge and divide it into 8 equal pieces, then roll each piece into circles about 4 mm (¼ in) thick.
  2. Season the filling generously with the salt and white pepper, and mix through thoroughly. Divide the mix between the pastry rounds, placing the filling over the top half of the pastry and leaving a 2 cm (¾ in) margin around the top edge for crimping.
  3. Brush the margin with the lightly beaten egg, then fold the bottom half of the pastry over the mix so the edges meet. Cup your hands around the pasty to bring it all together tightly, then crimp (or tuck) the edges together with your thumb and forefinger to form a seam along the side of the pasty. You can patch any holes with a little dampened, rolled out pastry.
  4. As you finish the pasties place them onto trays lined with baking paper, leaving 5 cm (2 in) between each so they bake evenly. Make a small slit in the top to allow steam to escape while baking, and brush the tops with the egg.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 160°C (320°F) and bake for a further 50 minutes. The pastry will turn a lovely golden brown and the filling will be super hot. Leave them to rest for at least 10 minutes before eating, so they can finish cooking.

Bakery notes

  • Make the pastry in advance so you have it rested from the fridge. The pastry will also freeze well for up to a month.

    In Cornwall the vegetables are traditionally ‘chipped’ – this means cutting them into random pieces using a small sharp knife while holding the vegetable in the other hand. At the bakery we find it more efficient to roughly chop them on a board – just don’t leave them in large chunks, or they won’t cook properly. Use good quality braising steak such as skirt or chuck, and old potatoes, so they soften and soak up the delicious juices.
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