I got together with my friend Kris one afternoon to make a version of traditional Cornish pasties in his Nova Scotia kitchen. Kris is originally from Cornwall, England, and until I actually get to visit there, our Nova Scotia version will have to do.
One day I texted Kris, one of my oldest friends, a photo of three traditional Cornish pasties I bought at a small food shop near my house.
“Look!” I typed, excitedly. “Delicious Cornish pasties!”
“Those aren’t Cornish pasties”, came Kris’ reply.
“Oh”, I wrote back, rather dejected. “Then what am I eating?!?”
And here began our foray into making pasties together.
Kris is from Cornwall, England where the Cornish Pasty is the region’s fiercely loved official dish. The story goes, the pasty was invented for local tin miners because they could use the crust as a handle without having to wash their hands. Kris said sometimes the pasties were filled with meat in one half, and jam in the other, so miners could have both lunch and dessert in one neat edible package.
According to Wikipedia, the Cornish Pasty accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy, and is the food most associated with Cornwall by the rest of the UK. In 2011 Cornish pasties were given Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status by the European Union.
“In order to receive PGI status, the entire product must be traditionally, and at least partially manufactured (prepared, processed, OR produced) within the specific region and thus acquire unique properties”.
In other words, the people of Cornwall take their pasties VERY seriously.
Kris said traditional Cornish pasties can be made with either flaky crust or shortcrust. He said it doesn’t really matter because the pastry is not the main debate. Instead, most discussion focuses on what should be inside the pasty – skirt, chuck, or flank steak, potato, swede, onion, salt and pepper. When I asked about sauce he said, “I usually put a bit of butter inside because who doesn’t love a bit of butter?”
“What about carrot?” I asked, thinking about my Mum’s delicious meat pies.
“It’s wrong to put carrot in”, said Kris.
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s not traditional”, he said.
Now, of course, living in Nova Scotia means we can’t make a TRUE Cornish pasty, but we spent an afternoon at Kris’ house making them, and he said we came darn close.
- We used this recipe for the pastry however, instead of 75 grams of shortening, we used a blend of 50 grams of shortening and 25 grams of butter.
- We eyeballed the amount of steak, potato, onion, and turnip, and mixed it all together with lots of salt and pepper.
- We cut our dough into large circles and filled half with steak mixture.
- We topped the raw meat and vegetables with a few pats of butter and a sprinkle of flour for thickening.
- We sealed the edges of the pastry with a little water and tried to crimp the edges like we knew what we were doing.
- We brushed the top of each pasty with beaten egg and baked at 375ºF for 60 minutes, until they were deep golden brown.
No photograph will ever do justice to the moment Kris and I sat down in his living room, him on the couch, and me on the floor, exclaiming at every bite of our crisp, flaky, golden pasties. Perhaps the thing I love most is, I now have an amazing recipe to add to my collection, and every time I make pasties for the rest of my life I will think of my friend.
This post was first published on March 10, 2013 and was updated on July 1, 2019.