Glorious Cornwall, a peninsula jutting out from the far southwest coast of England, is a tourist destination these days thanks to its rugged landscape and mild climate. But for centuries its fortunes were built on mining tin—dangerous and hungry work for the men and children who went “down the mines” and needed a solid lunch to see them through the day.
The Cornish pasty was the packed lunch that kept them going. For the poorest of the miners, early examples of pasties probably contained no meat—just potato, swede and onion—but beef was a variation that has survived to the present day.
Food historians disagree over whether the pastry casing for the vegetables and meat was intended to be eaten, or whether it was simply a packaging to be discarded. According to Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham, authors of The Prawn Cocktail Years (Macmillan, 1997), the thick seam running over the top of the D-shaped pastry was “originally the handle—and as such, chucked away—and each man had his initials written with scraps of pastry in the corner”.
Today, the pastry, ridge and all, is an essential part of a good pasty experience. It should be crisp (but never flaky), and sturdy enough to soak up the juices of the beef as it cooks with the diced vegetables. Seasonings are simple—salt and pepper only—and the result should be robust enough to eat with your hands.
Some consider it heresy to serve a pasty with a knife and fork but we think it tastes excellent either way. If you must have sauce (we admit, sheepishly, that we rather like a good tomato sauce with a pasty), try the ketchup from the TMix+ Spring/Summer 2015 issue or a good relish.
- For the pastry; weigh the flour into the mixing bowl and add the butter. Mix 10 seconds/speed 5.
- Add the boiling water then mix together 45 seconds/Knead. Tip the mixture out and knead together by hand until smooth. Wrap the pastry in cling film and rest it in the fridge while you make the filling.
- For the filling; cut the potato into chunks and weigh into the mixing bowl.Chop 3 seconds/speed 5 then scrape out the potato into a sieve set over the sink.
- Add the onion, carrot, celery and parsley to the mixing bowl and chop 3 seconds/speed 6.
- Add mince, salt and pepper. Squeeze the potato in your hands to remove excess moisture, then add it to the mixing bowl as well. Mix 20 seconds/Reverse/Knead; the mixture should be well combined.
- Scrape into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
- Heat the oven to 190°C. Line an oven tray with baking paper. Divide the pastry into 8 even pieces; each weighing around 120 grams. Divide the filling into 8 portions as well.
- Knead each piece of pastry to soften it then roll it out to a circle around 17 centimetres diameter. Cut around a saucer or small plate to create a true shape. Make all 8 circles and lay them out on the bench.
- Take a section of filling and squeeze it to remove any excess moisture. Form it into an oblong shape and place it in the centre of a pastry circle. Do this with all 8 pastry circles and all the filling, making sure they are even in size.
- Moisten the exposed pastry with water and draw it up around the filling so the edges meet on the top. Crimp the edge—kids will tell you it looks like a dinosaur.
- Brush each pasty thoroughly with the egg then use a fork to make 3 sets of holes on each side. Transfer to the baking tray.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry is nicely browned and the juices oozing at the holes. They should be sizzling inside. Allow to cool slightly before eating.
AND … Pasties will keep in the fridge for a few days and re-heat nicely. They also freeze well. The Rough Puff Pastry from TMix+ Summer/Autumn Issue (2016) also makes excellent pasties.