How to make Cornish Pasties – the Somerset Way
When we were little, one of my mother’s staple dishes for weekday suppers was Cornish Pasties. She made her Cornish Pasties with flaky pastry which took an inordinate amount of preparation, but which she thought hid her poor pastry skills. My grandma was a dreadful cook but a rather excellent baker and made a shortcrust pastry that was melt in the mouth and delicate. Mum never tried to compete. Instead, she learnt to make flaky pastry, rolling out and dobbing on pats of lard and butter, folding and re-rolling to make a delicious light pastry that she used for almost all her baking!
Following the family tradition, I’ve never tried to compete. In fact, I’ve completely avoided making anything that involved flaky pastry till now, especially homemade Cornish Pasties. Or, I’ve bought the pastry ready made. But, while I was looking for a dish to make for the Best of British Challenge that could represent Cornwall, I thought of my mum’s homemade Cornish Pasties and got a bit of a yearning for them. While I was looking for a pastry recipe I came across a couple of examples of this ‘grated fat’ quick flaky pastry and decided it sounded too good to miss. One version was all butter, one all lard – and neither had any salt. But I do remember mum making flaky pastry and what the ingredients were.
So, this version uses my mum’s mix of lard and butter (which I remember vividly from childhood because the lard meant that the raw pastry tasted horrible!). And, it has some salt in it…which of course you wouldn’t necessarily use if you were making a sweet filling, or even if you were using salted butter. The theory is that butter adds richness while lard makes a lighter and flakier pastry.
Making up the Cornish Pasty I’ve tried both using a ‘top crimp’ for the pasty and a side crimp. I find the top crimp a bit easier than using a side crimp, which apparently is more traditionally ‘Cornish’. And that is just the way mum made them. But, I am still not an expert – my crimp looks fine while the pasty is out of the oven but once it cooks, it seems to disappear!
We NEVER had swede in our pasties (mum didn’t like it) and, she always used raw ingredients including uncooked onions and beef, which to me now seems a little strange. And of course, my mum and my grandma came from Somerset not Cornwall…so, apologies in advance for any ‘bastardisation’ of a Cornish recipe.
Here’s the recipe for a not quite traditional Cornish Pasty from scratch. If you want to make it completely authentic use a mixture of swede and potato!
- 600 g Plain Flour Sifted
- 400 g Fat You can use butter, lard, hard vegetable fat or margarine. I used 50/50 butter and lard as my mum did!
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- 1 Large Potato
- 1 Medium Onion
- 300 g Beef Skirt or rump. I used rump because that's what my mum did!
- 1 Egg Beaten
- Salt and pepper to season
Put the fat into the freezer and leave to harden for at least 45 minutes
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl
Grate the fat into the flour using a standard box grater. If it starts to stick you can dip it into the flour to make it a little easier to grate
Using a round ended knife mix the fat and flour together
Now, make a little well in the centre and pour in about a tablespoon of cold water. Using your knife pull the flour and fat mix into the water till you have a dough, if necessary adding just a little more water.
Gently knead the mixture together. You are not trying to get all the fat mixed in, just to get a dough that you can roll out later on.
Cover with cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour
Peel the potato and dice all the filling ingredients into small pieces. The meat chunks should be about 1/4cm square, the potato about the same and the onion as finely diced as possible Season well with lots of black pepper and just a little salt
Take the pastry out of the fridge and cut into four pieces
Roll out each piece into a round on a floured board. If you are not confident rolling out rounds, you can cut around a plate as a guide
Place filling along the centre of the pastry and brush the edges with egg
Pull up the pastry and crimp. I follow my mother and crimp along the middle, although I've been told a 'true' <g class="gr_ gr_483 gr-alert gr_spell gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim ContextualSpelling ins-del multiReplace" id="483" data-gr-id="483">cornish</g> pasty is crimped along the side
Place each pasty on a baking sheet and brush with the egg wash
Bake in a preheated oven at 200-220c for about 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 160c and continue to cook for a further 30-40 minutes till the pasty is golden brown and you can 'hear' the filling singing (sizzling a bit)
Serve with brown sauce and baked beans!
I have to say, I was rather pleased with these Cornish Pasties. I know they freeze well because mum used to keep them, ready for emergency suppers. And they are not that far from the version I remember from my childhood, though I think perhaps I should have put a little more black pepper in the filling mix. They are really very good – full of flavour and quite substatial. I will definitely make them again, although I am not sure if I’ll dare serve them to my brothers who will doubtless tell me they are not as good as Mum’s!
Do have a go at making your own Cornish Pasties now you have an easy recipe!