A pasty is a British baked pastry, a traditional variety of which is particularly associated with Cornwall, South West England, but has spread all over the British Isles. It is made by placing an uncooked filling, typically meat and vegetables, in the middle of a flat shortcrust pastry circle, bringing the edges together in the middle, and crimping over the top to form a seal before baking.
The traditional Cornish pasty, which since 2011 has had Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe, is filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (also known as yellow turnip or rutabaga – referred to in Cornwall and other parts of the West Country as turnip) and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, and baked. Today, the pasty is the food most associated with Cornwall. It is a traditional dish and accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy. Pasties with many different fillings are made, and some shops specialise in selling pasties.
The origins of the pasty are unclear, though there are many references to them throughout historical documents and fiction. The pasty is now popular worldwide because of the spread of Cornish miners and sailors from across Cornwall, and variations can be found in Australia, Mexico, the United States, Ulster and elsewhere.
Pasties resemble turnovers from many other cuisines and cultures, including the bridie in Scotland, empanada in Spanish-speaking countries, pirog in Eastern Europe, samsa in Central Asia, curry puff in Southeast Asia, and shaobing in China.
For the Pastry:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 ounces cold butter (or half lard and half butter), cubed
- 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
For the Filling:
- 1/2 cup cubed skirt steak or rump steak (sirloin)
- 1/2 cup 1/4-inch-diced potato
- 1/2 cup 1/4-inch-diced swede (rutabaga)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Make the Shortcrust Pastry
- Gather the ingredients.
- Place the flour, salt, and butter in a large bowl.
- Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour and salt until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Work as quickly as possible to prevent the dough from becoming warm.
- Add 2 tablespoons of cold water to the mixture and, using a cold knife, stir until the dough binds together. Add more cold water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if the mixture is too dry.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes.
Make the Filling and Form the Pasties
- Gather the ingredients.
- Heat the oven to 425 F (220 C/Gas Mark 7). Divide the pastry into four equal pieces and roll each piece into rounds the size of a tea plate—approximately 6 to 7 inches in diameter.
- Place the steak, potato, swede, and onion in a large mixing bowl and combine. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Divide the meat mixture evenly among each pastry circle and place it on one side. Brush the edges with the beaten egg.
- Fold the circle in half over the filling so the two edges meet. Crimp the edges together to create a tight seal. Brush each pasty all over with the remaining beaten egg.
- Place the pasties on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 F (177 C/Gas Mark 4) and bake another 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or cooled.
- The dough can also be made in a food processor: Pulse the flour, butter, and salt until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water through the funnel until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill.
- There is no need to cook the filling ingredients beforehand as they will cook within the pasty.
- Choose a waxy potato that will hold its shape in the pasty. New potatoes, red bliss, and fingerlings are good choices, as are Maris Peer or Wilja (potatoes grown in the UK).
- A traditional pasty is crimped on the side—not across the top—so it lays flat. Crimp it however you feel comfortable because it will taste just as good either way.
The traditional Cornish pasty uses very particular ingredients. Though it won’t be authentic, you can make a pasty with a variety of fillings.
- Designed to be an economical meal, use the meats and vegetables that you have in the kitchen. Pork, chicken, carrots, leeks, peas, and sweet potatoes are just a few options.
- Cheese, onion, and potato pasties are popular in the U.K.
- The Welsh oggie is a giant pasty with lamb, leeks, and potatoes.
- Fish is a good choice too, and salmon is often found in pasties. This salmon puff pastry recipe is a full-flavored variation with an Asian influence.
- Skip the meat and create a vegetarian pasty.
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