The Cornish Connection - What is a Cornish Pasty?


A pasty (Cornish: Hogen; Pasti), (sometimes known as a pastie or British pasty in the United States), is a baked pastry associated in particular with Cornwall in Great Britain. Traditionally the Pasty would be made with beef, turnip, swede (rutabaga) and potato, which all gets nicely wrapped up in a crusty pastry and baked.

Even more traditionally, these would contain meat and veg at one end, and something sweet (dessert) at the other end. Originally it was designed by Cornish housewife’s as a compact, portable meal they could give their husbands who worked “down pit” (in the mines). They are the perfect size to be held by a large hand, and certainly make for a very filling lunch – and even dinner. The crust was just there as a vehicle to hold the meat and veg and the miners would toss it away because it would get covered in coal dust from their hands. However today the crust is eaten and the pastry is awesome!

As tin and coal mining reduced in Cornwall, many miners traveled overseas to Australia and America, which is why we have small pockets of Cornish descendants and Pastie shops in some areas of the USA.

Back in England there would be pasty shops – bakeries that specialize in making pasties. I always ate this with a really decent chutney too – like my Grandmas Green Tomato Chutney. The pastry is a pastry based dough, that yields a flavorful, rich and flaky crust. The outer crust is pretty strong, yet the inner (softer) side of the crust is delicate and somewhat light. Perfect for hauling down a mine shaft or when out at a tailgate party or picnic. 

Pasties have been mentioned in cookbooks throughout the ages; for example the earliest version of Le Viandierhas been dated to around 1300 and contains several pasty recipes. In 1393, Le Menagier De Pariscontains recipes for pasté with venison, veal, beef, or mutton.

Has anyone been watching the UK TV show – Doc Martin? Set against the stunning backdrop of Cornwall and the picture postcard village of Portwenn, the show is all about Doctor Martin Ellingham whose truculent and tactless manner upsets just about everyone. But where is Portwenn and is it a real town? Its actually filmed in the stunning location of Port Isaac in Cornwall. 

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