“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cornish Pasties: Name This Food!


is a Cornish Pasty. That's 'pasty' with a hard, short "A" as in 'magic', not 'pasty' with a long "A" as in 'mayday'. Too many times have I heard our Colonial cousins talking of "Cornish pasties" as if they were some sort of burlesque stick-on nipple covers. It's pasties, pasties, pass-tees... thanks. Whew.

So what's in a Cornish Pasty? And why is it Cornish? And how come some of them look like the one above, while others look like this..

A pasty is a filled pastry case, commonly associated with Cornwall in the United Kingdom. It differs from a pie as it is made by placing the filling on a flat pastry shape, usually a circle, and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. The result is a raised semicircular package. The traditional Cornish pasty is filled with beef, sliced potato, turnip or swede (also known as a rutabaga) and onion, and baked. Pasties with many different fillings are made; some shops specialise in selling all sorts of pasties. In a proper pasty, the filling ingredients must never be cooked before they are wrapped in the pastry casing; that is the main difference between a pasty and an empanada.

The origins of the pasty are largely unknown, although it is generally accepted that the modern form of the pasty originated in Cornwall. Tradition claims that the pasty was originally made as lunch ('croust' or 'crib' in the Cornish language) for Cornish tin miners who were unable to return to the surface to eat. The story goes that, covered in dirt from head to foot (including some arsenic often found with tin), they could hold the pasty by the folded crust and eat the rest without touching it, discarding the dirty pastry. The pastry they threw away was supposed to appease the knockers, capricious spirits in the mines who might otherwise lead miners into danger. Pasties were also popular with farmers and labourers, particularly in the North East of England, also a mining region.
A researcher in Devon found a reference to a pasty in a 16th century document, and argued that this showed the pasty originally came from Devon, although this was refuted by Cornish historians claiming that evidence for the pasty's roots in Cornwall go back millennia. The earliest known recipe for a Cornish pasty is dated 1746, and is held by the Cornwall Records Office in Truro, Cornwall. Outside Britain, pasties were generally brought to new regions by Cornish miners, and this strengthens the argument that pasties are a Cornish invention.
The pasty's dense, folded pastry could stay warm for 8 to 10 hours and, when carried close to the body, could help the miners stay warm. Traditional bakers in former mining towns will still bake pasties with fillings to order, marking the customer's initials with raised pastry. This practice was started because the miners used to eat part of their pasty for breakfast and leave the remainder for lunch; the initials enabled them to find their own pasties. Some mines kept large ovens to keep the pasties warm until mealtime. It is said that a good pasty should be strong enough to endure being dropped down a mine shaft.

And of course, being of Cornish origin means that there are various Cornish dialect names given to the pasty, such as 'tiddy oggy' or 'tiddly oggy' or even 'tiddy oggin'. What is the meaning of all this? You can find out in a wonderful little article at  http://www.cornishpasties.org.uk/tiddyoggy.htm

There is an extensive article about Pasties on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasty.

 There is a great deal of debate among pasty makers about the proper traditional ingredients and recipes for a pasty, specifically the mixture of vegetables and crimping of the crust. The crimping debate is contested even in Cornwall itself, with some advocating a side crimp while others maintain that a top crimp is more authentic. It has been said that the difference between Devon pasties and Cornish pasties is that the Devon pasty has a crimped crust running along the top of the pasty and is oval in shape, whereas the Cornish pasty is semicircular with a thicker crust running along the curved edge of the pasty, however it is more probable that the choice between top and side crimp versions is highly dependent on the whim of the cook.

Cornish Pasty Recipe for 4 Pasties (using a six inch diameter tea plate)

Ingredients for short crust pastry

1lb plain flour
1/2 lb either lard, hard margarine or butter or a combination of these
pinch of salt
cold water to mix


Rub the fat into the flour but not too finely. Add the salt and then start adding the water gradually until it works together into a ball without being sticky. Put aside in a cool place.

Ingredients for filling (these are traditional ingredients, but there are many other variations)

3/4 lb beef, not stewing beef
raw potato
raw swede (also known as rutabaga or yellow/swedish turnip)
small onion
salt and pepper
a walnut sized piece of butter


  • Cut the steak into small pieces but do not mince.
  •  Slice potato and swede into thin, small pieces about half an inch across. 
  • Chop onion finely. 
  • Dust the work surface with flour. 
  • Roll out the pastry to about 1/4 inch thickness. 
  • Using a small plate cut out circles. Moisten the edge with milk or water and support half of the pastry nearest to you over the rolling pin. On the other half, put a small layer of prepared vegetables then a layer of beef. 
  • Repeat this once but be careful not to have too much filling which would cause the pastry to burst during the cooking process. 
  • Sprinkle a dusting of flour over the filling (this helps to make the gravy). 
  • Fold the other half of pastry which has been resting on the rolling pin over the filling and squeeze the half circle edges firmly together. 
  • Starting at the right side whilst supporting the left side with other hand, using first finger and thumb turn the edge over to form a crimp. Repeat this process all along the edge. This will come with practice but you must get a good seal. 
  • Brush pasty with beaten egg wash to help with browning process and put a small one inch cut in the centre of the top to allow steam to escape. 
  • Bake in a hot oven 220 degrees centigrade for about 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 160 degrees centigrade for a further 40 minutes. Smaller pasties need less time. If they are browning too quickly cover loosely with greased paper.

Then just eat and enjoy!

Okay, what's the Name This Food! food today?

Name This Food!


  1. i guage its very green

  2. Never mind the cryptic approach, just give us the name!!

  3. that's green gage to you


Come on and chew the fat!


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