The pasty is as ancient as England. Chaucer mentions pasties in the Canterbury Tales. The first thing you need to learn is how to say the word properly. The “a” in pasty is pronounced as in the word ‘hat.”
Pasties became popular amongst workers in the Cornish tin mines. The crimped crust provides a “handle” with which to hold the pasty. In the tin mines, the workers hands would be covered with arsenic-laden dust. The handle allowed them to safely eat the pie and then discard the crust. One tradition was that a wife would mark the crust of her husband’s pasty with his initials, so that if he left some of it to eat later, he could distinguish it from those belonging to his fellow miners.
To make a Cornish pasty, one requires only four ingredients for the filling: potato, swede (rutabaga), onion and beef. Typically flank steak is used, but any meat will do as long as it is beef. Cubed or ground is a matter of personal preference.
Serve Cornish pasties for dinner straight out the oven with potato wedges and peas or eat cold the following day for lunch with a green salad and potato chips. Either Branston pickle or HP sauce will complement a Cornish pasty nicely. It is the perfect food for a picnic. It requires no utensils to eat and yet delivers all the important food groups – meat, veg and pastry – in every delicious bite.
You can use a store-bought pie crust or puff pastry, but to make proper Cornish pasty pastry follow the recipe below:
- 3½ cups of bread flour
- ½ cup of lard
- 1 stick (8 oz) butter
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg beaten to glaze
- ½ lb of beef skirt steak chopped or ground
- 1 medium potato diced
- 1 medium rutabaga diced
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 oz of butter
- salt and pepper
Make the Dough:
- Place the butter and lard in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- I use a stand mixer, but this is also easy to make by hand or in a food processor.
- Sift the flour into the bowl and add a pinch of salt. Slice the butter and lard and add to flour. Gently mix for a minute or two until the flour and fats combine to resemble bread crumbs. Add just enough cold water (a tablespoon at a time) until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
- Remove from bowl and knead the dough for 30 seconds until it forms a smooth ball.
- Wrap in cling film and place in fridge for at least one hour.
Prepare the Filling:
- Dice the vegetables into ¼ inch cubes.
- Chop the skirt steak into small pieces.
Assemble the Pasties:
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces.
- Roll dough into an 8" circle. Use a salad or side plate as a template to cut the dough.
- Take a handful of each of the ingredients and spread along the center of the dough.
- Place two or three slivers of butter along the top of the filling.
- Add plenty of salt and pepper
- Brush the rim of the dough with beaten egg
- Lift up the dough from either side of the filling and pinch the sides together to form a crimped edge.
- Make a couple of slits in either side with a sharp knife so that steam can release during cooking.
- Brush the pasty all over with beaten egg.
- Bake pasties for 15 minutes at 400℉.
- Reduce heat to 350℉ and bake for a further 20-30 minutes.
My mother used to make these on the weekend for us to put into our lunch bags during the week. This is only one reason the kids (and adults) at school thought I had funny lunches, but I loved them.
Question about the pronunciation though. How does one pronounce “hat”? I think I might say it differently than you do.
Unlike many Americans, the British pronounce the word hat with only one syllable. It rhymes with cat and mat and sat.