Being Cornish by birth, I cringe when I walk into a store or shop that supposedly sells the famous Cornish Pasty. More times than not, I pick it up, read the ingredients and toss it down in disgust! Strange things appear within the ingredients such as peas and carrots. Then when you read on a bit further, you get a hint of why they have got it so wrong. These Cornish Pasty forgeries are often made anywhere other than Cornwall!
Then there’s the pastry itself. Now I am not that brilliant at making pastry, but even I know the Cornish pasty has an outer layer of shortcrust and not puff pastry which is all air and nonsense!
Before we get into the recipe itself let’s talk about size. Have you seen those apologetic things in the store or shop? Some of them should come with a magnifying glass so they can be seen! In my youth my mother would often make genuine Cornish pasties for us. By today’s commercial standards they were huge! They would overlap the edges of a dinner plate and be around four to five inches across at their widest point! Now THAT was a pasty!
Okay, so how do you make a genuine Cornish pasty? What do you put in it? Let’s go for it…it uses old style weights and measures sorry about that, but that’s my history…
1lb shortcrust pastry
6 ounces potatoes
12 ounces steak (in times back it could well have been mutton – it was cheaper).
3 tablespoons of cold water
1 small chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste – personally I prefer a little extra pepper myself.
Start with the pastry. (I hope you have better luck with it than I do!). If you are not used to such large pasties, roll it out to the size of a small plate and about a quarter of an inch thick (the ingredients above are about the right quantity for this). When I make Cornish pasties though, they tend to be dinner plate size and the ingredients increased accordingly.
Cut all the solid ingredients up into small pieces. The onion should be finely cut. They are not only easier to eat this way, but cook quicker too. Remember to get rid of any gristle or fat etc from the meat.
Mix the now chopped up potatoes, meat, water, onion and salt and pepper thoroughly. (That’s another thing I find in those shop or store sold “Cornish” pasties – all the pepper seems to be concentrated into one spot! There you are munching away and then you suddenly hit that spot! I think you can guess the rest!)
Now we start getting toward the tricky bit. With the pastry laid out, use the ingredients to fill half of it in a bit of a pile – unless you want a flat pasty! Make sure though, that you leave about an inch clear pastry from the edge.
Dampen the exposed edge with water.
Carefully (if the pastry is too thin, this is the point at which holes start appearing – I speak from experience!), lift the empty half of the pastry over the top of the mixture. In effect, you are folding it in half.
At this point you could cheat to do the edging. If you want to, then press the edges together with the back of a fork to seal them. If you want a true-blue Cornish pasty though, you will need to master the art of “crimping”.
How to crimp the edges of a Cornish pasty. Press the edges of the pastry together to seal them as before.
Now carefully turn the pasty so that the sealed edge is now along the top.
Start at the left edge of the pasty, take hold between the left finger and thumb and turn it so it points along the line of the sealed edge. This is to make sure nothing oozes out the end!
Now move your left finger and thumb over the bit you just turned.
Place your right finger and thumb on the edge immediately adjacent to it and do what I would describe as a lift-turnover toward you. Now go back to the previous paragraph until you reach the end of the line. At this point turn the end inwards like you did previously.
With that all done, make a knife slit in the top to allow air to escape whilst cooking. If you didn’t get on with the crimping too well, then we will put it down to my explanation – or maybe you just have to be Cornish!
Brush the whole thing with beaten egg/milk if you want a glaze, but you don’t have to.
Place the pasty on a baking tray and cook in a hot oven (about 450F) until the pastry is pale brown at which point reduce the temperature to around 350-370F for about 40 minutes. It is important to get it right as crunchy and chewy ingredients just doesn’t make for a good pasty!
Enjoy it and make sure you fly the flag for a GENUINE Cornish pasty!