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The History of Cornish Pasties

What makes something Cornish ?

What is a Pasty ?

Authentic Recipe from Miss E.Irving


The pasty is the national symbol of Cornwall, England.

In some Cornish families a pasty recipe is the only means of tracing their family history. No one can pinpoint when the pasty originated, however it can be traced back to Henry the VIII (1491-1547). There is a letter in existence from a baker to Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, saying "hope this pasty reaches in better condition than the last one..." We also find reference to the pasty in two of Shakespeare's plays. It is referenced to in:

The Merry Wives of Windsor: Act 1 Scene 1
PAGE: Wife, bid these gentlemen welcome. Come, we have a hot venison pasty to dinner: come gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.

All's Well That Ends Well: Act IV Scene III
PAROLLES: I will confess to what I know without constraint: if ye pinch me like a pasty , I can say no more.

The pasty became the Cornish miners meal of choice for many reasons. The traditional pasty was a complete meal consisting of meat, potato, onion and seasoning all wrapped in a crust then baked. Also, a miner could leave home with a hot pasty in his pocket and reach in once in a while to warm his hands.
In Cornwall arsenic was often found in the tin mines. This is the reason for the thick pastry crimp on the pasty. The miners would hold the pasty by this crust throwing it away after they had eaten the body of the pasty to avoid poisoning. The crust wasn't wasted though; the miners were firm believers in "knockers" (ghosts) and left the crust for them.

Legend has it that the devil will not step foot in Cornwall, England. The reason is, he fears the Cornish housewife! The devil fears that if he goes to Cornwall he might wind up in a pasty.


The Pasty

The Dictionary definition of a pasty is:

Origin: British.
A Meat pie. The Pasty is oval or crescent in shape
filled with chunks of meat, diced potatoes, fresh
herbs, all delicately seasoned and wrapped in a
thin blanket of crisp, flaky crust.

Here is an excellent page on the history of the Pasty .

Would you like to order some Pasty's ? click here


Authentic Cornish Pasties

Recipe courtesy of Miss E.Irving of Westerham, Kent, England (formerly Falmouth, Cornwall, England);via Neil of Germiston, South Africa.

2 recipes pie crust, recipe below

8 oz sirloin, or skirt steak, or other lean tender beef.
3 tblspn cold water
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped fine.
1/2 medium onion or
1/2 C chopped onion grated turnip, carrot , or chopped mushroom if desired
seasoning salt to taste and thyme.

1.Roll out pastry to 1/4" thick, cut into rounds using saucer or saucepan lid.

2.Cut meat into small pieces. Dice the raw potato and chop onion finely.

3.Mix meat, onion and potato together, adding seasonings and cold water.

4.Place 1/2 of the meat mixture on one half of the circle of pastry, dampen edges of the pastry with cold water and fold over to cover the mixture.

5.Press the edges together and twist to make a rope like effect.

6.Make 2 or 3 slits in the side. Put your initials in it if you like.

7.Brush with beaten egg or milk and place on a Sheet pan and bake until golden brown in a hot oven. (approx. 30 min. at 350 F, then another 15 to 20 min. at 300F).

(Optional)Add another layer of pastry and put sliced apples with sugar, cinnamon and a little butter. This way you get your dessert as well.

Pie Crust recipe
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour (not bread flour)
3/4 stick of butter ( 3 oz.) or 1/3 cup shortening
1 teaspon salt
3 Tblsp. water

For history on Cornish Mining click here



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Last updated March 2001