Being a redhead, I’m very proud of my Cornish roots. It’s an incredibly romantic land, distinguishable by its rolling, purple moors, forbidding rocky cliffs, jaw-dropping (and gravity-defying) buildings, and dramatic and dangerous coastlines.
It’s a land where smugglers plied their trade in the 17th to 19th centuries, and there are still caves and inns standing that hold stories of adventure to enthrall children and adults alike. Cornwall is where Poldark and the wonderful Daphne du Maurier books (Jamaica Inn and Rebecca are standouts) are set, and it’s where thousands of Kiwis flock every year to enjoy some of the best surf in the world.
It’s also where you’ll find the only proper recipe for a Cornish pasty. Although pasties had been around for centuries, it wasn’t until the 17th century that the Cornish tin miners began to take them as sustenance, as the thick pastry meant a good pasty could survive being thrown down a mine shaft and still taste good!
There are many arguments as to what makes the perfect pasty. Some say the inside shouldn’t be cooked before it’s encased, but for ease, I put mine in a slow cooker for the day so I’ve got a ready-made mix.
Whatever you want in your pasty is up to you, but for it to be a Cornish pasty, as long as your main ingredients are meat, potato, onion and swede, you can’t go far wrong. There aren’t many places the humble swede is the hero, but that’s very much the case here.
I used ready-made pastry simply because it was easier on the day, but these pasties are fantastic if you make your own! I’ve also added carrots because I love them.
Just to top it all off – I like my pasty with malt vinegar and bucketloads of English mustard. Don’t believe it’s superb? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
Rustic Cornish Pasty
Ready in: 1 hr (or 8 hours in a slow cooker). Makes 4-6 pasties
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1kg diced beef
- 1 tablespoon cornflour or rice flour
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 swede, diced into 1cm cube
- 2 carrots, diced into 1cm cube
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1.5 litre beef stock
- Splash of Lea & Perrins
- Splash of balsamic vinegar
- 400g packet savoury short pastry block
- 1 egg, beaten
- 15ml milk
Pour cornflour, with generous amounts of salt & pepper, into a plastic bag (check it doesn’t have holes in it). Ensure beef is diced small enough (I often halve, or even quarter, supermarket-bought diced meat), add to plastic bag and gently toss until meat is fully coated.
In a heavy-based frying pan, heat the oil, then brown the seasoned beef in batches until there’s no hint of red meat left. Remove and leave to cool.
In the same pan, heat a little more oil and saute onions until translucent. Add chopped swede and carrot and fry through gently for a minute or two just to meld flavours. Add dried herbs and a little of the stock (no more than a few tablespoons).
Put beef, vegetables and the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker, along with more salt and pepper Stir to mix mustard through, turn slow cooker to auto, and leave all day. Allow time to cool before transferring to pastry. (Alternatively, mix in a bowl and allow flavours to meld for an hour or more.)
When mixture is cooled, preheat oven to 180°. Lightly flour your surface, then, using a rolling pin, roll pastry evenly to 0.3mm (approx), and cut 4 dinner-plate-sized circles. Crack egg into a small bowl with milk and whisk.
Spoon mixture evenly into the middle of the pastry circles, taking care not to use too much liquid. Brush edges with milk/egg mix, and seal. Lift sides, and, using a pinching movement, seal edges of your pasty so nothing can escape (if this isn’t perfect, don’t stress – I actually love it when a little of the juicy liquor seeps out in cooking so I often let the kids do the sealing!) and transfer to a lined flat baking tray.
Continue with the rest of the mixture, brush tops with egg/milk mix and cook pasties for 25 minutes. Serve hot or cold.