To qualify as a genuine Cornish Pasty, the savoury pastry must be made in Cornwall, west of the United Kingdom. It has to be crimped to the side and have the distinctive ‘D’ shape. The filling needs to be at least 12.5% beef with a mix of potato, swede and onions. My recipe for Cornish Pasty was inspired by one that I had while I was at Lyme Regis, in the county of Dorset. While my pasties are surely not made in Cornwall, it is definitely good! Look at the golden buttery pastry!

We had just had lunch at Hix Oyster and Fish House, in the seaside town of Lyme Regis. The Hix is known for its fresh British seafood. It sits high and overlooks the same harbour where Jane Austen set a crucial scene in her novel, Persuasion. The restaurant is situated at a strategic spot where you not only have a bird’s eye view of the harbour, there is an unobstructed view of what appears to be an almost endless horizon of where the sea meets the sky, broken up only by cliffs to the sides. Very pretty. Panoramic view aside, Lyme Regis stands out more vividly in my mind because of two memories (food related of course). Firstly, the round, silver platter of ‘Fruits of the Sea’ filled with cold oysters, whelks, razor clams, crabs, shrimps… so fresh and good. I need to go back for more.

Secondly, the Cornish Pasty! After lunch, we were lumbering past the seaside shops when I spotted a shop selling Cornish Pasties. They looked delicious! I had to try it. Never mind that I just had lunch. It was certainly one of the better pasties I’ve had but the traditional thick pastry never did go down well with me. Still, it was good for a Cornish Pasty. I would have been quite happy to keep it as a delicious memory as I know pasties are not exactly made for healthy eating but upon returning home, I was asked repeatedly to make them.

“No one sells them here! Can you please make them?” he pleaded.

“I need ‘beef skirt’. I’ve never seen it being sold here. I don’t know what to substitute it with. The wrong cut of beef would ruin the pasty. It would be tasteless and dry,” I tried to dissuade him.

“Why don’t you find out? You always do.” he retorted.

He is sharp. In my head I was already imagining the horror of working with pastry. I do not like working with pastry. You have to be so careful with it and the weather has been so hot. Even with the air conditioner turned on, the pastry always softens faster than I like. Persistent pleading always wears me down. So I caved in not for the first time and put on my apron and went to do some research and experimenting. I do like the pasties my recipe makes. The filling is juicy and meatier. I found that boneless beef short rib makes a great substitute for beef skirt. The beef turns out tender and flavourful. My light and buttery recipe for the pastry deviates from the traditional robust pastry that is traditionally used.

Cornish Pasties were invented for Cornish miners and the pastry had to be sturdy enough to hold its shape so that miners could still enjoy an intact lunch and be able to eat it with their hands without the need for cutlery in the mines. Flaky pastry clearly would not work here. Though the pastry I use is comparatively more delicate, it is still firm enough to be eaten with hands. I like it that the pastry isn’t overwhelmingly thick and stodgy as is sadly often the case with most pasties. It isn’t a genuine Cornish Pasty but it certainly is delicious.

No Cornish Pasties for sale here but these Dorset savoury pastries and pies look pretty tasty.


There are Dorset Pasties in the showcase below. Notice how they are top crimped and don’t have the ‘D’ shape look of a Cornish Pasty? 

Cornish Pasty, Beef Turnovers, Beef Pies

Prep: ~1 hour total
Cook: 50 minutes
Inactive: 2 hours and up to overnight to chill prepared pastry
Level: Intermediate 
Makes: Four  9″ (23 cm) Cornish Pasties
Oven Temperature: 360 F (180 C)
Can recipe be doubled?  

I do not like to work with too large a recipe for pastry as the hot weather does not help me to work it fast enough. It is possible though to double this. I hope you have cooler weather where you are. To double the recipe for the pastry, only put one portion of pastry ingredients (flour and fats) in the food processor at a time. This means you have to run the food processor twice. After which, you can incorporate the water at the same time with the double portions of processed pastry ingredients.

Make ahead? Refrigerates well up to 3 days.

Ingredients

For the pastry
6 oz (170g) unsalted butter
2 oz (57g) shortening
2 oz (57g) margarine OR replace with unsalted butter
14 oz (400g) all-purpose flour/plain flour*
1/2 teaspoon salt if using salted butter; 3/4 teaspoons if using unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 1.5 Tablespoon (150) ml ice cold water*
*Update: I have found that of late, as in my last 4 batches of pasties,  1/2 cup + 1.5 Tablespoons  is too much liquid. It could be the increasing humidity and temperatures that my part of the world has been experiencing. I hardly need 1/4 cup now. I suggest you start slow with the liquid.
For the filling
3 oz (85g) yellow onions
5 oz (140g) potatoes**
4 oz (110 g) swede***
16oz (450 g) boneless beef short ribs or beef skirt*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
For the glaze
1 egg beaten
* I chill the flour too as the weather has been hot.
** If I have the waxy Yukon Gold potatoes, I use them. It keeps it shape better. If not, I use the Russet potato.
*** This root vegetable (image below) is also known as rutabaga, yellow turnip, swedish turnip and I have seen it labelled in the supermarket as ‘swede turnip Australia’. It is not turnip as we know it. It does not taste, look or cook like turnip. Please do not substitute it with turnip. If you cannot get swede (better stocked supermarkets have them in their vegetable chillers), I would suggest replacing it with a firm variety of pumpkin. It would not taste the same though. Swedes are milder and slightly sweet. They should not be overcooked or it would turn mushy.
* ‘Beef skirt’ is the cut of beef most often called for in Cornish Pasty recipes. It is flavourful but difficult though not impossible to find this cut of meat locally. I use boneless beef short ribs which is a very good substitute as it is almost as flavourful and tender. Both cuts of meat can be found most of the time from dedicated butchery sections in better stocked supermarkets and specialised butcheries. Call to preorder or to check availability so that you do not make a futile trip to the butcher. 

Swede also goes by rutabaga.

Method

For the pastry
1. Butter, shortening, margarine and the dry ingredients should be well chilled. Butter, shortening and margarine should have been pre-cut into 1/4″ (1.25cm) cubes prior to chilling.

2. In the food processor, pulse the salt with the flour to incorporate. Distribute the chilled fats into the flour and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs with larger chunks of fats visible. Transfer into a large bowl.


3. Add  ice cold water gradually (start with 2 Tablespoons) in a circular direction into the mixture. With a spatula work it in quickly and lightly in clockwise direction. Better to use a spatula or pastry scrapper to work water in so that the heat from your fingers do not start to melt the fats.
4. Add an additional 2 Tablespoons ice cold water if required to bring the pastry together. You might not need it. Don’t feel obliged to use up all the water stipulated in this recipe.

5. You should still be able to see nuggets of fats in the dough. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. I weigh the total weight of the dough and then divide into 4 equal weights of dough. Shape each dough into a 1″ (2.5 cm) disc. Wrap each with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or overnight.

 

For the filling
1. When your pastry has been sufficiently chilled, slice up all the vegetables as shown in the image below. Keep the vegetables the same dimensions and thickness as I have done.
2. The meat should be trimmed of any visible blobs of fats and sinew. Cut into the same thickness as the potatoes and swedes but twice its length. This will ensure even cooking.
3. Divide each ingredient into 4 portions.
 


Assembling
1. Turn on the oven to 360 F (180 C). Oven rack adjusted to middle.
2. It helps to have the following items shown in the photograph ready as your pastry is going to soften as soon as you take it out from the refrigerator.
3. If you do not have a pastry cutter, a knife will do. If you do not have a Silpat, your work surface will do. The bench scrapper (the silver rectangular item to the left) helps to lift up the pastry. The less you handle the pastry with your hands, the less chance you have of the pastry softening too quickly. Do remember there is a high percentage of fats in this pastry. The 9″ plate helps to cut out the pastry to the exact size. Have a bowl of flour next to you and have the salt and pepper close by.

4. Flour your work surface and only remove one chilled disc of pastry.  Roll pastry. Remember to lift up your pastry to flour your work surface as you roll. You do not want it sticking. Roll pastry until it is slightly larger than a 9″ circle. Trim and set trimmings asides.

5. Start layering. Potatoes at the bottom, followed by swede, beef, onions and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper.

6. Use the bench scrapper to help lift and fold the pastry over to close.
7. Start crimping the pastry to close. If you find it difficult to crimp, use the tines of a fork to seal the edges. The pasty should look like the alphabet ‘D’. With the help of the bench scrapper, lift and transfer onto a baking tray that has been lined with parchment paper. Brush with beaten egg and use a knife to pierce a hole.

8. Each pasty should be baked immediately after assembling as it will start to melt quickly in the hot weather if left on the kitchen counter. It does take about 10 minutes to assemble each pasty. Alternatively, you could refrigerate each assembled pasty (but do not egg wash until they are ready for the oven) and wait until you have assembled the last pasty before baking in the oven for 50 minutes in the heated oven. If you are putting them in the oven one at a time, keep track of the 50 minutes baking time for each pasty. Try and wait 10 minutes before eating. They are piping hot!

Tips

Remember all the pastry trimmings? You could make these wonderfully easy and tasty cheese bites.


Gather all the trimmings into a ball. Roll out into 1/2″ (1.25 cm) thick. Sprinkle grated cheese (any kind) and pepper. Roll into a log. Cut into 1/2″ rounds. Flatten the rounds. Brush with left over egg. Bake in the same oven as the pasties for 15 minutes.What a delicious extra treat!

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

Tiramisu! You probably have a Tiramisu recipe already. So why would you want another?You would if you do not want to keep on using raw eggs in your Tiramisu recipe. The risk of Salmonella, a nasty kind of food poisoning is always there when you use raw eggs. My recipe has eggs. What’s Tiramisu without eggs! I cook my eggs into a cross between a custard sauce and a sabayon. Curious? Find out more in my next blog post.

UpdateI was thrilled that my recipe for ‘Tiramisu With Eggs But Without the Raw Eggs’ was featured by the Italian baker/confectioner Pan Ducale on their Facebook page, 20 July 2016. Here’s the link to their page.  The feature was a surprise as it was unsolicited.

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