Let’s start with some fighting words shall we? If I see another recipe for Cornish Pasties calling for mince, peas and carrots, I shall scream.
Authentic pasties contain none of these ingredients. You don’t make them with shortcrust pastry either.
Pasties are British regional peasant food and a world away from the mass-produced nastiness we put up with today. Nicknamed ‘Oggies’ by the celtic-speaking Cornish, they often encased fish or rabbit mixed with root vegetables. Sometimes, jam or stewed fruit was placed at the other end, with a piece of pastry inserted in the middle cleverly separating lunch from dessert.
The story goes that Cornish women would make a round of pasties for their men’s lunch and then take them, still warm, to the tin mines where the men would be working down below. They would call down the mine shaft, ‘Oggie, oggie, oggie!’ – the men would reply ‘Oi, oi, oi!’. In effect it was a quick call-and-response meaning, ‘Your lunch is here’, followed by, ‘Righto, send them down’. And to think, the ubiquitous chant that accompanies Australian national teams at sporting events around the world simply signifies that dinner’s ready.
If I could, I would take you to Porthleven in Cornwall, close to the town I grew up in, and we could sit on the harbour wall and smell the pasties cooking from the bakery a hundred metres away while we watch the world go by.
Made with potatoes, swede, a little onion and chuck or skirt steak, truly great pasties are made with a rough puff pastry which is made with lots of butter and lard for enhanced flakiness. The smell as they cook is mouth watering. They are light, delicious and moreish, not the lumpen clods that we have to endure here.
Take your time to make the pastry, take your time to make the pasties – it is a labour intensive exercise – and enjoy the results. You’ll never buy a mass-produced pasty again.
Makes 6 pasties
- 550g plain flour
- 125g butter, chilled and cubed
- 125g lard, chilled and cubed
- pinch of salt
- 600g beef skirt, gravy beef or chuck steak
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 250g swede, peeled and sliced thinly*
- 400g potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly*
- knob of butter
- freshly ground white pepper to season
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
*The vegetables should be sliced thinly, not cubed. Cube them if you like, but a genuine Cornish Pasty will use sliced vegetables.
Rough Puff Pastry: Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the salt.
Add the half the butter and lard and use your fingers to work the flour into the fat until it is like rough breadcrumbs and there are still lumps of fat in the crumb mixture. It is not rubbed in as finely as shortcrust pastry.
Sprinkle cold water onto the mix, just a tablespoonful at a time, mixing it as you go until you have a stiff dough. You have to go slowly or you’ll end up with too much water in the dough, which causes a dry pastry.
Flour your worktop and knead the dough gently for a minute or two, then wrap it in clingfilm and place it in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the dough, roll into a rectangle and spread the remaining butter and lard over the bottom two thirds of the pastry. Fold the top third (without the covering of fat) of pastry over the butter, then the bottom layer of pastry over the middle to create an envelope effect. Roll the pastry again to incorporate the butter. The pastry will have large streaks of butter and lard throughout it, almost a marbling effect. There will also be air bubbles trapped. This is a good thing.
Roll up the pastry again into thirds, cover with clingwrap and refrigerate for another 30 mins before continuing with the recipe. Pastry stored like this will still be fine for a day or two, so you can make up a batch, or cook ahead.
Preheat oven to 200°C
Peel and finely slice your vegetables. Slice the beef into small, thin pieces.
Remove your pastry from the fridge and cut it into six pieces, rolling each one lightly in your floured hands so they form identical sized balls of dough.
Lightly flour the benchtop and roll out each dough ball so it is round and about 3-4mm thick. Using a small dinner plate, placed on the dough, cut out a circle. Layer each of the vegetables in the centre of each round of pastry. Place the meat layer on top of the layered potato/onion/swede. Dot with a tiny piece of butter and season with salt and pepper.
Brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash before bringing the edges of the pastry up over the filling to meet in the middle. Crimp the edges together by pressing the pastry firmly between your fingers to seal the edges together. You can also seal the edges around one edge, like a semi-circle. There is considerable debate about which method is the best. Either will do, just make sure the edges are sealed well.
Place all pasties on a lined baking tray, brush with egg wash and cook for 30 minutes, then turn down the oven to 190°C and cook for a further 20 minutes, until the pastry is a golden brown and the filling cooked through. The smell of cooking pasties should bring everyone into the kitchen.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before eating. Even if you wait the filling will be very hot.
$8.90 for six large pasties