Although I come from a traditional Cornish family, I gave up meat at the age of eight. This was unusual at the time (I didn’t even know there was a word for it!) and there was far less choice in the shops than there is now. No veggie burgers, no quorn products … All I remember in that line was spending my pocket money on some rather chewy soya mince, the kind you had to hydrate (and the less said about the taste of it, the better).
My family was bemused by my decision (no change there), but when I refused to budge, they also respected it. This is the recipe they developed especially for me, so I didn’t have to miss out on my favourite Cornish treat.
When we first started making these pasties, you couldn’t get any kind of vegetarian pasty in our local shops. The following version is my husband’s, a combination of my mum’s and my step-mum’s recipes. It’s delicious!
Cheese and Onion Cornish Pasty
All quantities are approximate and may be adapted to taste. The following quantities make two large, rich, cheesy pasties.
PASTRY for two pasties:
Flour 340g (12 oz) flour
Vegetable fat 140g (5 oz) trex or similar vegetable fat/margarine
Salt and water
Make in the usual way, by rubbing the fat into the flour (salt added) until it becomes like breadcrumbs, then adding cold water. Add the water gradually until the pastry holds together in a nice, non-sticky ball, but don’t overwork it. Put the ball in the fridge to keep cool while you prepare the filling
FILLING for two pasties:
2 small potatoes
Similar quantity turnip or swede (we Cornish like to debate which is which, so I’ll just say the orange-coloured one)
4 spring onions or equivalent quantity onion or leek
Approx 140g (4-6 oz) cheddar cheese (or to taste)
2 eggs (1 per pasty) (optional)
Chopped parsley (optional)
2 pats butter (1 per pasty) (walnut-sized)
Salt and pepper
METHOD Prepare the vegetables in small, thinly-sliced pieces. Divide your pastry in two. For each pasty, roll out pastry to the size of a dinner plate, approximately 25cm or 10 inches. Place the pat of butter on top, followed by the vegetable pieces, heaping them up in a nice mound (ideally just off-centre and leaving a good inch all around the edge—this makes folding easier). Add the grated cheese and parsley, followed by some good sprinkles of salt and pepper.
(Variation: For a meat pasty, omit the cheese and egg and add instead a layer of small pieces of beef skirt, steak, or beef mince. The meat used traditionally in Cornwall is beef skirt.)
Fold the pastry over to make a half moon shape, and ‘crimp’ the edges together. There’s a knack to this, but the main thing is to seal the pasty. Crimping is folding the pastry edge over itself, bit by bit, working your way along, but as long as you have a good seal, no problem.
Poke a vent hole or two in the top and pour 2 tsp cold water through the hole. This helps the vegetables to cook through properly and keeps the pasty moist. If desired, insert a whole egg, either by leaving a gap in the crimped edge and turning the pasty upwards to get the egg in that way, or by widening a vent hole and dropping the egg through that (the vent hole can then be partially re-sealed). Beginners might want to skip this part, as it’s a bit fiddly and the egg can leak out!
If desired, glaze with milk or beaten egg (I often do this at the end of cooking instead, using milk, which soaks in while the pasty is resting).
Bake on a greased tray in a pre-heated oven: 25 minutes at 190 degrees, followed by approximately 35 minutes at 150 degrees, until pasty is golden brown. (Turn the tray around when you lower the temperature.)
Place the pasties on a rack and cover with a tea towel. It will be molten inside, so leave to cool for a bit—if you can bear to, that is!