The humble Cornish pasty enjoys a quirky history and has recently been proclaimed a ‘protected food’ by the European Union because of its enduring and quintessential ‘Britishness’. Miners in the late 1800s took this portable and easy-to-eat convenience food with them to work as part of their ‘crib’ or ‘croust’ (Cornish dialect for snack or lunch). Fashioned by the miners’ wives, the engineering of this lunchtime dish is actually quite ingenious. Firstly, the outer pastry itself acts as a receptacle and insulator for the more nutritious pie fillings. Secondly, even the crimping of the edges had a practical use. Not meant for consumption, the crust was used as a ‘handle’, which was then discarded post lunch so that no trace elements of arsenic – present in tin mines – would be ingested. Lastly, in a trinity of brilliant culinary engineering, the original Cornish pasty came in two parts: one infused with meat and veg, and the other filled with apple. So, the workers who enjoyed them could have a pudding after consuming their meat and veg. Genius! Recipes were handed down from generation to generation and young girls were often made to practise crimping techniques using plasticine before they were unleashed
Recipe by Leila Saffarian
Photography by Curtis Gallon
Cornish pasty: meat, vegetables and sweet apples
- 15ml (1 tbsp) olive or avocado oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 600g rump steak, diced
- 1 potato, diced
- 30ml (2 tbsp) beef stock
- Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 60ml (¼ cup) water
- 2 apples, diced
- 60ml (¼ cup) brown sugar
- pinch cinnamon
- 10ml (2 tsp) cornflour
- 125ml (½ cup) water
- 2 x 400g ready-made shortcrust pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
For the meat filling, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry until softened. Add the meat and cook until browned.
Add the potato and beef stock, season well and add the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the potato is cooked through, 15 – 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the apple filling, combine the apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, cornflour and water in a small saucepan. Heat gently over medium heat, bring to a simmer and cook until the apples have softened, 5 – 6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Roll the pastry out on a floured work surface. Cut the pastry in half and fill with equal amounts of meat and apple filling next to one another, being careful not to mix the two.
Fold the pastry sides over to create a crescent, crimp the edges and make a steam hole on the apple side of the pastry. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling.
Brush with beaten egg and place on lined baking trays. Bake in the oven, 25 – 30 minutes, and serve hot.