Cornish Pasties: A Major Treat for Miners and a Plaited Piece of History

The Cornish Pasty: back in the day a compact and wholesome pastry filled with meat and vegetables for miners and workers in the fields and mine tunnels around Cornwall, and these days a staple of farm shops and bakery counters far and wide with a wide range of fillings and flavours.

Traditionally made with steak, potato, onion, and swede (turnip), the pies were an easy way to get a good meal in the gut of a hard-working labourer without any need for cutlery. It is said the crimped plait was for holding onto, to keep dirty fingers (or worst case scenario, fingers possibly poisoned with arsenic from the mines) off of the food. Tales of mine shafts littered with discarded pasty crusts abound. However modern day pasties are normally eaten end to end, plait and all, as they should be.

While you can find pasties in most busy city centres, we've got a great recipe for a traditional Cornish pasty that we thought we'd share. We’ve also taken a few liberties with the traditional recipe and used our hearty Vegan Soya Ragu with Mixed Vegetables and a great recipe for the vegan shortcrust pastry to make some mini and regular sized vegan-friendly pasties.

The vegan recipe uses aquafaba, and if you aren’t familiar, it’s the liquid that your canned chickpeas are swimming in. Aquafaba is full of protein and has cooking characteristics similar to an egg, so it works well in the pastry and also when “washing” the pasty before baking to make a golden-brown crust.

 Here are the recipes: 

Vegan Shortcrust Pasty with Soya Ragu

For the pastry:

  • 320g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 90 ml rapeseed oil
  • 90 ml aquafaba 

To prepare:

  1. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper to a bowl and whisk to incorporate.
  2. Add the oil and using your fingers or a spoon, stir the oil into the flour until it starts to come together into fine beads.
  3. Add the aquafaba and continue to stir to incorporate. Do not over-mix, you want this to be a loose dough. As it comes together and comes away from the sides of the bowl, pat and push it together into a ball without kneading it.
  4. Remove the dough ball from the bowl and cover in cling film. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

For the filling:

  1. Defrost 1 box of Vegan Soya Ragu to room temperature. 
  2. Pour contents into a sieve over a bowl. Shake a few times to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve the liquid. 

 

To make the pasty:

Preheat the oven to 220C/200 Fan/ Gas Mark 7

  1. Cut the chilled dough into four equal parts.
  2. Spread a pinch or two of flour on a clean work surface and using a rolling pin, roll out one of the sections of dough into a circle measuring 10cm across for small pasties and 20cm across for a full-sized pasty.
  3. Spoon some of the soya ragu onto one half of the dough, leaving a bit of room (about 1.5-2cm) around the outer edge. Spoon a scant bit of the reserved liquid over the top of the ragu.
  4. Brush some of the aquafaba around the outer edges of the dough, then fold the dough in half to form a half circle, pressing gently around the edges to seal.
  5. There are a few things you can do to finish the pasty. You seal the edges by gently pressing a fork down onto the seal, creating a pattern around the outside. Or you can opt for the traditional plait, best illustrated in this video. Trust us, it's much easier than you think!
  6. Brush some more of the aquafaba on the outside of the pasty and make two 1cm incisions on the top for ventilation.
  7. Place the pasty on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake on the centre of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200C/180 Fan/Gas Mark 4 and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before eating.

 

Traditional Cornish Pasty

 For the pastry:

 300g plain flour

100g beef suet

100g salted butter, cut into small chunks

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp coarse ground black pepper

120ml cold water

For the filling:

 300g flank steak, trimmed and cut into slender strips

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium potato, peeled and diced

200g of swede, peeled and diced

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp cracked black pepper (you’re the boss here, make it as peppery as you’d like)

1 beef stock pot

2 tsp dried parsley 

1-2 eggs for egg wash, cracked and beaten with a few drops of water 

To prepare the pastry:

  1. In a mixing bowl, add the flour, suet, butter, salt, and pepper and stir to incorporate. 
  2. Add the butter and using your hand, push, pinch, and rub the butter into the flour until it begins to form small beads.
  3. Add the water, a bit at a time, stirring gently with a spatula. It is important not to overwork the dough, so fold the water in rather than stirring vigorously. Once the dough starts to come together, pat the dough into a ball, remove it from the bowl, and wrap it in cling film. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 hours to let it firm up.

For the filling:

  1. Mix all ingredients but the egg in a bowl and stir to combine

 

To make the pasty: 

Preheat oven to 220C/200 Fan/ Gas Mark 7

  1. Cut the dough ball into 4 equal sections. 
  2. Sprinkle a bit of flour on a clean work surface and using a rolling pin, roll out each of the sections of dough into a 12-15cm circle.
  3. Add a few tablespoons of the beef mixture to one side of each circle, leaving a space of 1-2cm at the edge.
  4. Brush some egg wash along the edge of the dough, then fold the dough over the top of the beef, pressing the edges gently to seal.
  5. There are a few things you can do to finish the pasty. You seal the edges by gently pressing a fork down onto the seal, creating a pattern around the outside, or you can opt for the traditional plait, best illustrated in this video. It’s much easier than you think!
  6. Brush egg wash on the top and sides of the pasty and using a small knife, make two small incisions on top for ventilation.
  7. Place the pasties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 200C/180 Fan/Gas Mark 6 for 35-40 minutes, turning the tray once halfway through cooking.