It occurred to me that while Joe Biden and his wife Jill are spending a short time in Cornwall, my father’s home county, both he and his wife should know about and be able to produce the Cornish delicacy known as a Cornish pasty. To that end, I am posting a previously unpublished article I wrote in 2013 and which exposes all the secrets of how to create the perfect Cornish pasty. Here it is. Joe and Jill, when you’re finished with all this being president and first lady hoo-ha, may I suggest you make a batch of pasties, invite all the family round, and enjoy the traditional meal of the Cornish miners.
Traditional recipe for Cornish pasty
As handed down by my paternal grandmother, Agnes Bennetts
Written 15 September, 2013
My Aunt Elsie, my mother, grandmother, cousin Mick (Elsie’s boy), me, circa 1942
My paternal grandmother was born in Pendeen, eight miles from Land’s End in Cornwall, the south-western tip of England. Apart from a short spell in South Africa, she spent all her life in Pendeen. As a very young boy, my mum, dad, sister and I used to visit her in the school holidays and she would cook authentic Cornish pasties for my sister and me. Gran would scratch our initials in the pastry before she cooked the pasties in her range-like oven or, as she called it, the slab. Traditionally, the pasties were accompanied by hot sweet tea although nowadays, I may have a chilled lager instead.
My grandmother passed the recipe on to my mother who, in turn, passed it on to my wife Carol. This is my grandmother’s original recipe. Enjoy.
- Short crust pastry
- Cubed swede
- Sliced onion
- Cubed potatoes
- Good skirt beef, cubed not minced
Note: My wife usually add carrots to the vegetable mix, plus she uses rump or sirloin beef instead of skirt. These are our embellishments and not included in the authentic recipe as handed down by my grandmother. Carrots particularly are not approved by Cornish pasty purists!
- Roll out the pastry and use a dinner plate to cut a round of pastry.
- Fill with the vegetables, first, and meat on top.
- Add salt and pepper to taste plus a knob of butter to assist the cooking process. (These days my wife may sprinkle with olive oil rather than use butter, plus she usually crumbles half an Oxo cube over the top to add flavour.)
- Wet the edge of the pastry, wrap and crimp closed. Cut a vent hole in the pastry. Scratch name in the pastry. Purists still argue about the position of the crimp; along the top or to one side? (Additional note, 23 June 2021. I have it on very good authority from my cousin Mary who is 100% Cornish and knows her onions from her potatoes that the crimp is always on the side, never along the top. I believe this is so that the miners could hold the pasty with dirty hands, eat the bit with all the meat and veg, and then throw away the dirty crimped edge.)
- Paint milk on the pastry if cooking immediately, else defer until cooking time.
- Wrap the pasty in tin foil and cook as follows or place in a freezer for consumption at some future date.
- Bake at 180 degrees Celsius + fan (350 Fahrenheit, gas mark 4) for 1½ hours or 2 hours if from frozen.
- Cover the pasty with tin foil to prevent the pastry from burning. Remove for last 20 minutes or so to brown the pastry.
- Enjoy with a cup of tea sweetened with 2 teaspoons of sugar.
Note: if you cannot eat the whole Cornish pasty in one go, cold pasty with HP sauce is an excellent snack.