This easy Cornish Pasty Recipe is so delicious and makes the perfect packed lunch, picnic food, or make-ahead camping meal.
This post has been updated for 2020
Let’s hear it for the traditional Cornish pasty! It’s the ultimate on-the-go meal, is super filling and (for me at least!), tastes like home :)
So what makes a good pasty great? Unsurprisingly I have some thoughts on this…
The Three Markers of a Great Cornish Pasty
- Pastry. The pastry needs to be a buttery shortcrust, that flakes a little. It also needs to be dark, golden brown. No pale, anaemic looking pasties please!
- Meat. Traditionally beef skirt is used in a Cornish pasty. It needs to be devoid of any ‘chewy bits’, diced finely and should be spread evenly throughout the pasty so as not to get a great clump of meat down one end, and a barren t’other end.
- Seasoning. This should actually be number one on this list, as without a damn good sprinkle of salt & pepper, a perfectly good pasty is just bland and inedible.
How to Make a Great Cornish Pasty
There are other notes that I have been taught over the years on producing a great pasty too. Here’s all my knowledge condensed:
- Potatoes. Use a waxy potato rather than a floury one. The latter will simply disintegrate in baking. Secondly, I was always taught to ‘chip’ my potatoes rather than dice them. I’ve made it both ways, and honestly there is no difference in taste. However, you’ll have generations of Cornish bakers smiling down on you if you chip rather than dice :)
- Swede/Turnip. Apparently there is a little confusion on this vegetable across the Tamar, in England. The swede/turnip we use is the yellow fleshed variety. For authenticity sake, please avoid the white fleshed ones.
- Carrot. DO NOT PUT CARROT ANYWHERE NEAR A TRADITIONAL CORNISH PASTY. It is a sin, and you will get pooped on by every seagull in Cornwall. Same for peas. Urgh.
- The nubbin. OK, this is totally my made up word for the ‘end bit’ of pastry. It is to be revered and thoroughly enjoyed and NEVER fed to a seagull.
- Cheats pastry. It is (thankfully) totally acceptable to cheat and use ready made, ready rolled shortcrust pastry. Unless you’re charging money for your pasties, and then absolutely, categorically not.
- The Pasty Song. We are SO passionate about pasties down here that I was even taught a song about them at primary school. However it still makes zero sense to me, as it involved hanging your pasty on a washing line. No clue.
I have quite a few pasty recipes here on the blog, so if you want to get some extra crimping practice in go see:
Buying a good pasty in Cornwall
If you’re visiting Cornwall and you want to avoid buying a bad one (of which, sadly, there are many), my top pasty shop is Sarahs Pasties in Looe. It’s the tiniest little bakery and you can watch the girls make them every morning.
They also have a sister cake shop down the road for pudding ;)
How to Crimp a Cornish Pasty
Trying to explain in words how to crimp a Cornish pasty is a little tricky, so instead may I direct you to my latest video on the subject.
In the video below I’m vlogging at the World Pasty Championships (yep, it’s a thing!) at the Eden Project. If you’d like to skip the tasty tour of Eden, skip ahead to 11.50 for the recipe only, or 12.51 for the pasty crimping action!
Step by Step Guide to Making a Traditional Cornish Pasty!
1: Prep your Pasty Filling
The way I was taught (by a lovely Cornish man in his 90’s who had made pasties his entire life) was to ‘chip’ the potato rather than dice it. To do this, take a small paring knife, and gently chip away at the potato, cutting away small pieces that almost resemble flower petals.
Repeat with the swede, then finely dice the onion.
Chop your beef skirt into small pieces, removing any tough or gristly looking pieces.
2 Roll out Your Pasty Pastry
Forgive me. I’m a food writer that cannot make pastry. I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’ve given up. I now buy shortcrust pastry whenever a recipe calls for it, but feel free to make it if you are a pastry ninja.
Roll the pastry out, and draw around a plate that is roughly 20cm in diameter with a sharp knife.
Lay the pastry rounds out on the work surface that has been dusted with flour.
3 Add the Pasty Fillings
It really doesn’t matter what order you do this in, but I tend to do the potato first so that the meat juices will drip down a baste the potato as it cooks. Yum.
Next up I add the onion, swede and finally the beef.
4 Add the Pasty Seasonings
You’ll need LOTS of black pepper and a really good sprinkle of salt (for authenticity it should really be Cornish Sea Salt!)
Finally a goodly sized knob of butter which I tend to cut into three so that it will flavour the entire pasty evenly.
5 Fold and Seal the Pastry
OK, I’m not gonna lie, this bit is tricky. I watch the girls down at Sarah’s Pasty shop with envy as they do this in one even movement. I don’t.
Firstly, fold the nearest edge of pastry over the filling, away from you, whilst also trying to stop everything falling out.
Then press the pastry edges together, again poking any stray filling pieces back inside.
And finally, pinch the edges together along the length. You don’t need to egg or milk wash the edges to make this stick.
6 Crimp your Pasty!
Start at one end and fold the very end inch of pastry over itself (picture one), pressing down firmly.
Fold the next inch of pastry and press down, then repeat along the entire length (picture two).
When you reach the far end, you’ll be left with a ‘sticky out’ piece of pastry an inch or two long. Simply fold this piece underneath the pasty for a tidy finish (picture three).
7 Egg (or Milk) Wash
I’ve never heard if egg or milk is the most traditional wash for a Cornish pasty, but I use egg purely as I’m lactose intolerant.
If you opt for egg too, do make sure you beat it really well so the yolk and white are fully combined. Then simply brush liberally over the pasty and crust with a pastry or basting brush.
At this point you’ll pop the baking tray into a preheated oven, tap your fingers impatiently for the next 50 minutes whilst your house fills with the glorious scent of baking pasties!
OK, ready to make your own? Then here is…
My Easy Cornish Pasty Recipe!
- 500 g shortcrust pastry
- 150 g potato chipped or diced
- 75 g swede chipped or diced
- 75 g onion diced
- 200 g beef skirt diced
- 30 g butter
- 1 egg beaten
- salt and pepper lashings of!
Preheat the oven to 165c and line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
Roll out your shortcrust pastry and cut round a 20cm plate to make a circle of pastry. Lay out on a work surface dusted lightly with flour. Repeat with the remaining pastry so you have 3 pastry circles.
Lay 1/3 of the potato, swede, onion and finally beef skirt on the centre of each circle. Aim to have the ingredients well spread out so as each bite gets a mix of flavours.
Add a small knob of butter on top of each pile of ingredients.
Season extremely well with salt and pepper. This step is vital, please don't skimp! You want to feel the heat from the black pepper as you eat your pasty.
Fold one pastry side over to meet the other, enveloping all the filling in. If any bots stray, simply poke them back in. Gently press the two edges together, and then crimp to form a sealed edge along the pasty.
Lay out on the lined baking sheet, then brush generously with the egg wash. No need to pierce a hole in your pasty, try to keep the pastry intact if you can.
Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes. Remove and devour hot, or let cool fully on a wire cooling rack before packing away in a lunch box.
Huge thanks to the Eden Project and the YHA for letting us visit. Please note this post is not sponsored.