Challenge No. 16 – Cornish Pasty

This challenge was suggested by one of my good friends from University.  My friend Laura is by all accounts a vegetarian, cake lover (amongst many other wonderful things) and I hadn’t registered that one of her suggestions was not only not cake, but a meat filled pastry! It took me by surprise when I realised what Laura had asked me to make.  So thanks for the suggestion Laura and I’m sorry you can’t get to try this one 🙂

This dish is said to be an important part of the Cornwall county culinary history.  The first references to cornish pasties appeared in the 13th century and during the 18th/19th century, it was a staple part of the diet of working men in Cornwall.  The wonderful thing about a Cornish pasty; it contains a meal within its golden crust.  When handled by miners/farmers, the thick crust could be held with dirty fingers and thrown away at the end. Today, it is enjoyed by many people (not just the miners/farmers) and we don’t throw the crust away – I mean come on, its one of the best bits!

I did a quick search and found a recipe by one of my favourites, Paul Hollywood.  You can find the recipe here.

For this recipe you will need:-

  • For the pastry
    • 500g/1lb 1oz strong bread flour
    • 120g/4oz vegetable shortening or suet
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 25g/1oz margarine or butter
    • 175ml/6fl oz cold water
    • 1 free-range egg, beaten with a little salt (for glazing)
  • For the filling
    • 350g/12oz good-quality beef skirt, rump steak or braising steak
    • 350g/12oz waxy potatoes
    • 200g/7oz swede
    • 175g/6oz onions
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • knob of butter or margarine

Edited - test

I started by putting all the pastry ingredients (except the egg) into my bowl and used a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients.  I then used my hands to crush everything together to form a dough.  It didn’t really form into a ball very well (it was so dry) but I tipped it out onto the worktop and started kneading to bring it together properly. 

Edited - dry ingredients

Oh my gosh, this was such hard work! I watched the video included on the recipe link and Paul Hollywood makes it look so easy.  I however was literally have to put my full body weight into the kneading and it was a real work out.  Dave even had a little go but he didn’t quite get the technique right and was just kind of squashing the dough.  Anyway, after I took over again and gave the dough a last few bits of vigorous kneading, I had my smooth and glossy ball. 

Edited- dough ball

Practical tip: develop your own method of kneading.  This may sound silly but when I first starting making bread, I tried to replicate other people’s kneading styles.  Unfortunately, I have bad joints, particularly bad in my hands and I found it painful to use some of the methods I’d seen on TV.  Instead I found I rolled and stretched the dough between my two hands, using more of the heel of my hand than my fingers.  It takes a little longer for me to knead like this but I always get there in the end and it is less painful 🙂 So find a method that works for you and just go with that.

With the kneading done, I wrapped the dough in cling film and popped it into the fridge for 60 minutes. 

I then got started on the filling ingredients. I chopped the potato, swede and onion into what I thought were reasonable sized cubes.  I knew Dave was going to be a bit funny about eating this dish (he likes Cornish pasties but he hates chunky vegetables) and to try and keep him happy, I asked him to ‘approve’ the size on my cubed vegetables. He said they looked too big and was concerned they wouldn’t cook properly.  I re-read the recipe and sure enough, I’d cut them to about double the size suggested.  So I re-chopped to make them smaller.

I cut my braising steak to similar size cubes and put all the ingredients into a bowl, mixed and seasoned with salt and pepper. 

 Edited - vegEdited - beef

I divided my dough into 4 pieces and took the first piece to roll into a disc of approximately 25 cm.

Practical tip: in case you missed Challenge No. 11, when rolling out pastry (or fondant, or pretty much anything you want to roll), always roll from the middle up and middle down.  If you roll from top to bottom you’ll end up with a really fat bottom, whereas rolling from the middle helps to keep an even thickness all the way through.

Edited - rolled out

I then spooned a quarter of the seasoned mixture onto one half of my pastry circle.  The recipe says to add a knob of butter/margarine before folding over the pastry but I accidentally missed this bit.  Paul doesn’t add any butter/margarine in the video so I decided it wasn’t a problem that I missed this stage. 

Edited - filling

Next, I set about crimping; I used my fingers to make twists all the way along the round edge.  I put the pasty on my lined tin and made the remaining three pasties.  I put one more on the baking tray and then wrapped the remaining two in baking paper and cling film before putting them in the freezer for another day.  I’ve read mixed reviews about freezing cornish pasties before cooking them, so I’ll give a little update in the future to let you know if it worked 🙂

Edited - crimped

With two pasties in the freezer, I brushed the remaining two with the egg and salt mixture before putting them in the oven for 45 minutes.

When the timer went off, Dave and I tucked into these glorious looking little (okay huge!) parcels of goodness. 

Edited - golden brown Edited - centre

We both really enjoyed them, strangely Dave a little more so than me.  I have to admit the first few mouthfuls left me a little disappointed but the flavour soon developed and I started to appreciate it more.  To improve it, I think it could have done with more seasoning – I was probably a little too cautious with this.  Also, I thought it was a little dry in the middle and I wonder whether putting the knob of butter in with the filling would have helped with this. 

Whilst the filling definitely had room for improvement, Dave and I thought the pastry itself was great and overall it was a very tasty dinner.

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 17 – passion fruit cream profiteroles and hot chocolate fudge sauce 

3 thoughts on “Challenge No. 16 – Cornish Pasty

  1. Pingback: Challenge No. 28 – Pizza |

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