LB's Cornish Pasty

LB's Cornish Pasty

If there's one dish guaranteed to cause a furore amongst West Country folk, it's the Cornish pasty. Everyone has a view about the preparation of this famous pastry turnover, and for a dish with so few ingredients, it's surprising how controversial it is. Most people agree that the classic ingredients are beef skirt or flank, onion, swede, confusingly called turnip in Cornwall, and potato, bundled in lard pastry, but the proportions and how they're cut vary enormously, usually by whim and what's available. When times are lean, the steak is replaced with extra potato and the pasty becomes a tiddy oggy; tiddy being a local name for potatoes and oggy a West country word for pasty. It's said that the distinctive rope seam or 'handle' that runs down the middle or round the edge of the pasty was once a practical means for tin miners to hold their portable lunch and avoid being poisoned by arsenic on their fingers. It's also said that fishermen never take pasties aboard their boats because it brings bad luck. Similarly it's not traditional to make a fish pasty.

Place the lard in its wrapper in the freezer and leave for about an hour until very hard.

Prepare the filling ingredients and arrange in four separate piles. Trim and dice the beef, cutting away gristle but leaving fat, into 20p size pieces. Peel, halve and finely chop the onion. Peel and dice the swede into slightly smaller pieces. Slice the potato thinly in 5p size pieces.

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Remove the lard from the freezer, peel back the paper, dip into the flour and grate it into the bowl, dipping back into the flour every now and again to make the grating easier. Now, mix the lard evenly into the flour by making sweeping scoops with a palette knife until it resembles heavy breadcrumbs. Stir in 1 tbsp water at a time until the dough clings together, then form it into a ball. Place the dough in a polythene bag and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Divide the pastry into four equal pieces. Dust a work surface with flour and roll one pastry ball into a 20-23cm circle, using an upturned plate as a guide. Roll the other three pieces. Leaving a 2cm border, sprinkle onion and swede over half the pastry. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with the meat and then with half the potato. Season again and then add the remainder of the potato. Paint the border with water then fold the rest of the pastry over the filling. Press the edges together to seal (or use the tines of a fork) and then, working from one end to the other, crimp with your fingers, rolling the pastry border upwards and forming little pleats, tucking neatly as you go. Tuck the ends underneath.

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or butter it thoroughly, and sprinkle with water. Transfer the pasties to the baking sheet with space between them. Rest for 30 minutes. Prick the top of the pasty a couple of times with a fork (to make steam holes) then brush with egg wash. If liked, use pastry trimmings to cut out the initials of the people who will be eating the pasties and 'glue' then seal with egg wash on the side of the pasty.

Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6 and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 150C/gas mark 2 and cook for a further 45 minutes until golden and the wonderful pasty aroma is wafting round the kitchen. Makes 4 large, 6 'small'

Makes 4 large, 6 'small'




for the pastry:

250g lard

450g strong plain flour

approx 6 tbsp ice cold water to mix


for the filling:

400g beef skirt or flank, or chuck steak

200g onion

200g swede

600g floury potatoes

1 egg whisked with 1 tbsp milk

knob of butter