It is believed the pasty was invented as lunch for Cornish tin miners who, stuck in the mines and covered in dirt (and possibly arsenic), could hold the pasty by it’s thick crust so as not to contaminate the main part. The crust would then be discarded apparently appeasing ‘the Knockers’, mischievous spirits the Cornish equivalent of Irish leprechauns, who lived underground.
My version of theses tasty snacks has a thinner crust than the original pasty but that is just my preference. If you fancy a thicker crust simply add less filling and, rather than crimping, roll the outer edge up to seal it.
It is important to use a good quality lean beef. Traditionally beef skirt was used but if that is not available braising steak is a good alternative. Chop the meat finely (but do not mince) as it needs to cook at the same speed as the vegetables and pastry.
350 g plain flour
85 g butter, chilled
85 g vegetable fat or lard, chilled
350 g lean beef, finely chopped
150 g swede or turnip
1 large onion, finely chopped
800 g potatoes, peeled
salt and white pepper
1 tablespoon plain flour
25 g butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sift the flour and salt for the pastry into a large bowl. Cut the butter and fat into small pieces and rub them into the flour with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add 2 tablespoons of water and mix it into the flour mixture until you have a smooth dough, adding more water if the mixture is too dry. The dough should not be tacky but smooth and pliable. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
When ready to use, roll out the pastry to 3 mm thick and using an 20 cm pastry cutter or small plate cut the dough into 8 rounds, re-using the scraps if necessary.
Place the beef in a bowl and season well with salt and pepper.
Slice potato and swede into very thin, small pieces about 1.25 cm across and place in another bowl with the onion. Mix well and season generously with salt and pepper.
Place a heaped tbsp of the vegetables on one half of a pastry round.
Top with 1/8th of the beef and then another spoon of the vegetables.
Sprinkle the filling with a dusting of plain flour and place a small knob of butter on top.
Brush a little water along the edge of the pastry and carefully fold over to make a semi-circle.
Press the edges together making sure they are well sealed then pinch to give a crimped effect.
Brush with beaten egg and make a small slit in the top about 2.5 cm long to allow the steam to escape.
Make the remaining pasties in the same way.
Place on a baking sheet and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 180C/Gas 4 and continue to bake for a further 40 minutes until the filling is cooked and the pastry is golden brown.