Oct 21

Jim’s Cornish Pasties

in British, Main Course, Meat, Recipes By Region, Recipes by Type

One of the joys of food blogging is the contact that I sometimes get to have with some of you!  I recently had a wonderful email exchange with a reader named Jim.  Jim is from Cornwall, England, the birthplace of Cornish pasties–a meat pie traditionally filled with cubed beef, potatoes, turnips (or rutabaga), and onions.  I was able to ask Jim about pasties and he told me that his mother made them “perhaps twice a week for dinner, but of course you could take them with you if you went out for the day as a picnic.”  He went on to explain, “History tells us that they were originally made for the Cornish tin miners who would take them down the mines with them, sometimes they had a sweet filling in the one end, although I have never seen one made like that.  They are very popular in Cornwall, all the bakers shops sell them, but home made ones are the best.”  Jim also told me that when he was a young man, he was a fireman on the railway (steam locomotives).  He said, “We would place our pasties on top of the engines controls so we could eat a piping hot dinner.”  Jim was kind enough to share a recipe for Cornish pasties with me, as well as a poem he wrote about his mother’s pasties.  Thank you Jim!


Mothers pasties, I’ll have ee knaw,
Were nothing but the best,
Full of taties, turnips and some beef,
They were, far better than the rest,

We took them down the weir, for tea,
We took them up Trencrom,
By train, we took them to Penzance,
To eat, upon the prom,

Pollards coaches took the weight,
On chapel trips to Looe,
Loaded down with saffron buns,
And mothers pasties, too,

I’d take one down the station,
Father had to have his tea,
I never used to mind at all,
There’d be a corner left for me,

We ate them when we went to school,
We ate them through the war,
They kept us going when times were tough,
We couldn’t have asked for more,

If I could turn the clock back, years,
Now wouldn’t that be grand?
Once more I’d sit on Hayle beach,
With mothers pasty, in my hand.

– James Davey

These pasties are cheap to make and are delicious and filling.  The Fujis gobbled them down like I had served chocolate cake for dinner.  They also make wonderful leftovers.

Cornish Pasties
Makes 4 pasties, about 8 servings

Shortcrust Pastry
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 pound fat (use butter or lard, or a mixture of the two)
ice water, as needed

1. Sift the flour with the salt into a bowl.  Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the fat until the mixture resembles coarse pea size crumbs.

2. Start adding the ice water a little at a time, tossing gently until it works together into a ball without being sticky.  Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

1 pound steak, cut into small cubes
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin pieces about 1/2-inch across
1 small turnip, peeled and sliced into thin pieces about 1/2-inch across
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
Salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Dust your work surface with flour.  Divide the pastry dough into 4 balls.  Roll out one of the balls into a circle that is 1/4-inch thick.  Moisten the edge with milk or water.  On half of the circle, put a thin layer of potatoes and then a thin layer of turnips.  Spread 1/4 of the beef on top.  Add a little onion, then season generously with salt and pepper.  Add one piece of butter, then lightly dust the filling with flour (this helps to make a gravy).

3. Fold the other half of the pastry over the filling and press the half circle edges firmly together.  Starting at the right side, turn the edge over to form a crimp.  Repeat this process all along the edge.  Brush the pastry lightly with the beaten egg (to help with the browning process) and a cut a small one-inch cut in the centre of the top to allow steam to escape.  Place on a baking sheet.  Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the remaining balls of pastry dough.

4. Bake the pasties for 20 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for another 40 minutes.  Smaller pasties will need less cooking time.  If they are browning too quickly, cover them loosely with tin foil.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Kitchen Butterfly October 21, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I love pasties…so so much. I find that using wholemeal flour for the pastry results in great, crumbly pastry


Anonymous October 21, 2009 at 4:29 pm

I lived in England for a couple of years and enjoyed a number of Cornish pasties. I either need to bribe you to make some for me or nudge your mother to. Great post. Now, how about some good, original, fish and chips, served in newspaper, with a side of mashed peas? Fuji Papa


Fuji Nana October 21, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Having heard this story as it unfolded, I've been waiting for this post. I absolutely LOVE the poem, which captures the Cornish culture through the wonderful words and images, but also speaks of the roles in our lives of both memory and family. Beautiful, Mr. Davey. And I'm looking forward to tasting your pasties too!


Jenn October 21, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Looks really good. I've never had a cornish pastry before. But it's looks very similar to an empanada but bigger, so I'll definitely like this.


Amanda October 21, 2009 at 5:50 pm

I was born in England, but have been here in the states for a long time. My uncle, who I email with regularly, lives in Cornwall. For fun, after reading this post, I've emailed him to see if he has a recipe to share with me :)

Also, I LOVED how at the end of the recipe it says that if the crust is browning too quickly to cover it with "tin foil". Oh my gosh does that bring back some memories! While growing up I always called aluminum foil tin foil, my friends always thought that was funny. LOL

Great post Racheal!


kawaii crafter October 21, 2009 at 9:34 pm

They look delicious! I have plans on making them next week. Stumbled this post.


Jamie October 22, 2009 at 1:50 am

"Gobbled them down like you had made chocolate cake for dinner"? Now THAT is a compliment. And I can see why! They are not only beautifully made but look too delicious!


Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite October 22, 2009 at 6:09 am

Thanks Rachael and Jim for this! These remind me of my nana who used to make her own cornish pasties too (her family was from Cornwall)… I wonder if I can get over my feat of pastry to try these out!


Mary October 22, 2009 at 9:26 am

I make pasties but I can't get them to photograph the way yours do!


Peggy Bourjaily October 22, 2009 at 10:53 am

I worked at a British tea room years ago and the pasties were homemade and delicious. Thanks for sharing this! I am definitely going to make them myself.


Bob October 22, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Sweet merciful crap. Those look amazing. I must make them. I must.


Kamran Siddiqi October 22, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Those look delish! What a great poem too! They remind me of empanadas. I guess every culture and country has a type of "empanada" or mini pies….

These looks delish and I think I've got to try them… My stomach is growling for some reason.


Nutmeg Nanny October 22, 2009 at 6:41 pm

They look so homey and delicious:)


Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction October 22, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Those look delicious… They look like the perfect project for a cold day!


molly December 11, 2009 at 8:12 am

my grandma is from Cornwall, so i grew up eating these!  I went to Saltash (cornwall) and had some "real" cornish pasties…they use parsnips…yuck! but they were still great!
  You can buy frozen pasties in some grocery stores in the States.


molly December 11, 2009 at 8:15 am

i forgot to mention..grandma use to tell me, you are supposed to fill one end with pudding and the other with the meat and potatoes..


Amanda December 15, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Hey mamacita. This is going to be so fun! My dad is coming to my house on Christmas Eve and we were talking over the phone about his brother in Cornwall. I was going back through emails I had exchanged with my uncle and saw your pasty link in one of them I had sent to him. I told my dad about it and he said he used to love them. Of course, like me, he's been in the states for 40 years, so it was fun talking about England again, especially Cornwall. Anyway, I was telling him I wanted to make them, and he suggested we make them together on Christmas Eve, how fun! Can't wait :) 


Michael [KyotoFoodie] January 4, 2010 at 5:44 am

Oh, these look SOOOO yummy. I want to stick my head through the internet and take a bite! I live in Kyoto, Japan. I have a very small convection oven, I think I could probably make this recipe. I feel inspired.



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