How to make perfect Cornish pasties

Serve these Cornish pasties with peas and tomato sauce.
Serve these Cornish pasties with peas and tomato sauce. Photo: William Meppem

Cornish pasties started life as a hearty, eat-in-the-hand lunch for British coalminers, with a warm peppery filling of beef, potato, swede and onion inside rich, buttery pastry.

Need to know

  • Make this easy, no-fuss hot water pastry your friend, because it's sturdy, supple, and won't shrink or crumble. By rubbing the butter into the flour (by hand or by food processor) you form a shield around the flour that slows gluten development and prevents the pastry from toughening.
  • Resting the pastry in the fridge also slows gluten formation, making it easier to roll the pastry into the right shape.
  • Cheaper cuts of beef such as skirt steak are traditionally used, or upgrade with rump or coarsely ground wagyu.
  • Don't skip the swede! This sweet, nutty vegetable should be a regular on your shopping list. Boil them with carrots, and mash with butter and chives – divine.
  • Swap out beef and veg for lamb and peas or chicken and leeks, but keep potato in the mix. Or go for a sweet filling of apple and dried fruits instead.

Almost-traditional Cornish pasties

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 brown onion, peeled, finely chopped
  • 100g carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 200g waxy potatoes, peeled
  • 200g swede, peeled
  • 400g beef, e.g. skirt steak
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp beef or chicken stock
  • 20g (1 tbsp) butter
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glaze
  • tomato sauce, to serve

Hot water pastry

  • 450g (3 cups) plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150g cold butter, diced
  • 125ml (½ cup) boiling water

METHOD

  1. To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like sand. Transfer to a bowl, and add the boiling water. Mix it in with a knife until it comes together and leaves the sides of the bowl. If too crumbly, add a little extra water. If too sticky, add a little extra flour. Turn out onto a floured bench and knead for 30 seconds, then divide into four rounds, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Place the onion and carrot in a large bowl. Chop the potato and swede into 1cm cubes and add to the bowl. Chop the meat into 1cm cubes and add to the bowl with salt, pepper and flour; toss to combine. Add the stock to moisten, tossing lightly to mix.
  3. Preheat oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  4. Roll out each round of pastry on a floured bench. Using an 18cm- or 20cm-wide plate as a template, cut out four circles. Mound the vegetables and meat on top of each circle, leaving a 1.5-cm gap around the edge, and top with a knob of butter. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little beaten egg and bring the pastry sides up to meet in the middle. Pinch firmly to seal, and crimp the edges to create a frill.
  5. Place the pasties on the prepared tray and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 150C fan-forced (170C conventional) and cook for a further 35 minutes until golden. Serve with tomato sauce.

Makes 4

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Tips:

  • To crimp the pastry, pinch and twist the edge of the dough onto itself with the thumb and forefinger of both hands. Repeat to the other end.
  • Don't skimp on the black pepper – you should be able to taste it.
  • The filling should be evenly chopped so that everything cooks at the same time.