Cornish pasties: not to be confused with pastis (because I’ve done that before); one massive portable pie that is about half the size of my face; a flaky, meaty, carby delight that tops my “to eat” list when I set foot in England.
It may seem a bit silly that I’m getting so excited about a hand pie. We do have them here in the U.S., after all. But look at the expressions of unbridled joy when I have a piping hot pasty in hand. It was love at first bite.
For all you history nerds out there, the pasty shop in the picture on the far right was one of the locations where William the Conqueror stayed in Winchester. Yes, 1066, Battle of Hastings, when a Norman-French guy conquered England. I geeked out at the pasty shop.
For the longest time, I wondered how the people of Cornwall laid claim over the pasty. Apparently, no one truly knows where pasties came from. The pasty somehow worked its way into the English diet hundreds of years ago, then made its way through some Robin Hood stories and Shakespearean plays, and then became popular among the working people of Cornwall. This flaky hand pie definitely has been around the block.
According to the Cornish Pasty Association (yes, there is one), a “genuine” Cornish pasty must have the following ingredients:
- minced or diced beef
- sliced or diced potatoes
- swede (or turnips)
- simple seasoning
Also, it can only be called a Cornish pasty if the filling was uncooked at when the pasties are sealed. Well, the pasties I made were not genuine Cornish pasties for reasons you’ll see very soon. But don’t let that deter you from making one of these half-moon pockets of gold.
To get the pasty experimentation started in my kitchen, I consulted Jamie. You know, the Naked Chef. I got a copy of Jamie’s Great Britain two Christmases ago, and it has taken me a while to crack open into this hefty book of bright and colorful British recipes. Many of the recipe names definitely caught my attention:
- Breakfast Butty: does this mean there’s a lot of butter in this sandwich? name also dangerously close to “booty”?
- Diamond Jubilee Chicken: being the Queen certainly has its perks.
- Legendary Clootie Dumpling: I misread this the first time and thought it said “Cootie Dumpling.”
- Bonnie Cranachan: I don’t even know where to begin.
Amidst this delightful cookbook was the recipe I was looking for: Early Autumn Cornish Pasties.
As I read the opening blurb and directions of the recipe, I felt like Jamie was giving me a a good pep talk about how I will conquer this recipe. My favorite part of the recipe is when Jamie tells me to “confidently fold the pastry over the meat and vegetables.” To be honest, as I lifted the edges of the dough to seal the pasty, I had serious doubts about whether it was all going to work. I had visions of dough ripping everywhere as the filling bursted through the seams. Then, I remembered what Jamie said and folded that baby with confidence. Success!
Chicken & Root Vegetable Pasties
- 3 1/2 (500g) cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (250g) cold butter (2 sticks)
- 7/8 cup (200ml) water
- pinch of salt
- 12 ounces (350g) cooked chicken breast, cubed
- 3 shallots, diced
- 1 large yukon potato, peeled and diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
- 1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- generous pinch of salt
- black pepper
- a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme
- 1 large egg, whisked
- Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Pour the flour into a large bowl and add a pinch of salt. Cut the butter into slices, and put it into the bowl. Using your hands, rub the butter together with the flour until the floured butter is in the shape of small peas. Add the water, and mix the batter up until the dough is just moistened. Don’t overwork the dough. You’ll get a crumbly dough. If the dough looks a bit dry, add 2 more tablespoons of water. Pat the dough into a ball shape.
- Prepare the filling by mixing the chicken, shallot, carrots, parsnips, and celery together. Make sure that the diced vegetables are cut pretty small, roughly 1/4-inch cubes. Take the rosemary and thyme and remove the leaves from the stem. Give it a couple rough chops. Mix the nutmeg, salt, rosemary, thyme, and pepper with the chicken and vegetables.
- Divide the dough into 6 pieces. On a well-floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll out the dough to an 8 1/2 inch circle. As you are rolling out the dough, make sure to turn it frequently to prevent the dough from being stuck to the surface. You can prepare all the dough at once, or work one pasty at a time. I chose the latter because I didn’t have much counter space.
- Take a small handful of filling and place it in the center of the rolled out dough. You want to make sure that there is about an inch of clear space around the edge of the dough. Brush the egg white along this empty space.
- Fold the dough over the vegetables to create a semi-circle shape. Do this with confidence! Seal the pastry. You can crimp the edges with a fork or fold it like I did. When I folded the edges of the pasty, I brushed some egg along the edge so that the folds stayed put. Brush some of the egg wash over the entire pasty. Repeat these steps for the rest of the dough.
- Place the prepared pasties on the baking sheets and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pasties are golden brown.
- Best served immediately!
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