Monday, April 24, 2017

Cornish Pasties

Hi everyone! Jan here, with a recipe re-do. The first time this recipe appeared in the Cafe was almost FIVE years ago!

Here's what has happened in our lives since then: Connor (best dog EVER) passed away and a year later was replaced by Thatcher (cutest dog EVER!), and Wynter became an old lady - turning twelve last December.

Add to that two weddings, a college graduation, multiple trips into the Black Hills of South Dakota (pretty much out our front door) and a few trips to the Wyoming mountains, adult children moving in and out, and six books published. 

A lot has happened in those five years!

But I still love this recipe. :) So enjoy this post from the past!

Cornish Pasties

by Jan Drexler

Our discussion a couple weeks ago about Regional Favorites started me thinking about some regional favorites that span cultures. Some dishes are so simple, so basic, that it seems every culture has a version.

One I’m aware of is the Cornish Pasty (that’s pass-tee, not paste-tee). There are versions all over the country, brought by immigrants from various northern European countries.

There’s the Bierock, brought to America by the Volga Germans and Russians, and you find them in Kansas. The Runza – very similar to the Bierock – is also from Germany, and you find them in the eastern parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska and parts of Minnesota. These two are so similar you can almost say they’re the same, but don’t say it out loud when you’re in Kansas! They’re both made with a yeast dough shell and filled with a ground beef and cabbage mixture. The big difference between them is their shape. Bierocks are bun-shaped, while Runzas are rectangle shaped. Yes, I know, not much of a difference, but don’t tell the Kansans or Dakotans that…

The other common variation has a pastry shell. The Fleishkuckle, also from Germany, is common in North Dakota and parts of South Dakota. The filling is made of ground beef, ground pork and onion. The Cornish Pasty is the other version with a pastry shell, but has a diced beef, potato, turnip and onion filling.

You’ll find similar dishes in the Italian Calzone, the Russian Chebureki and various smaller versions like the Chinese Wonton, the Polish Pierogi and the Italian Tortellini.

All of these hand pies were developed for one purpose: a quick, portable, filling meal for the men to take to the fields or mines with them. One real advantage is that if your hands are dirty (which they are – just think about miners and farmers and no running water…), you can hold your meal by one corner and then discard the soiled end of the pie.

The one I’m most familiar with – because of my Michigan roots – is the Cornish Pasty. It was brought to America by the Cornish families who immigrated here to work in the copper mines in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The only other place I’ve found them is right here in the Black Hills of South Dakota, in Lead (pronounced Leed), where the Cornish miners came to work in the Homestake Gold Mine. You’ve heard of “Black Hills Gold”? This is where it comes from. Lead is just down the road from Deadwood, and I've heard you can still find gold in the area. I've also heard that there’s a grocery store in Lead where the locals still buy their pasties. What can I say? It’s tradition.

Here’s the recipe for your own Cornish Pasties! This recipe will make about six pasties, with enough leftover pie crust to make a couple pies or apple turnovers.

1.     Pastry or pie dough – use your favorite, or you can use mine:

Never-Fail Pie Crust


3 cups flour
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 beaten egg
5 1/2 to 6 Tablespoons water

Blend the flour and salt in a medium bowl.

Cut in the shortening. I like to use butter, but it also makes a great pie crust with lard or vegetable shortening (i.e. Crisco). The butter gives you a better tasting crust that browns more easily, but the lard or shortening gives you a flakier crust.

Anyway, cut in the butter or shortening, and then beat the egg in a separate bowl, and add the vinegar and water. The amount of water you add will depend on the humidity on the day you make the crust. It's a good idea to start with the lesser amount, and then add more later if you need it.

Pour the liquid into the flour mixture, and mix well. The dough should be able to stick together, but not be sticky. If you aren't able to form the dough into a ball, add a bit more water. If it's too sticky, sprinkle in a little more flour.

This recipe makes enough dough for three single crust pies, or one single crust and one double crust, so there is plenty to work with as you make your pasties. 

2.     Filling:

o   ½ cup onion, cut into small cubes
o   1 cup potato, cut into small cubes
o   1 cup swede, cut into small cubes (see below for an explanation of this ingredient!)
o   6 oz. beef – round steak or rump steak – cut into small cubes
o   Salt and pepper

One note - This basic recipe is pretty bland, so feel free to add more seasoning! One of my favorite seasoning blends is 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon marjoram, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon oregano and 1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes. Mix it in with the filling, or use your favorite seasoning blend.

Another note - Because I used lean beef, I added gravy to these when I served them. But you can add moisture to the pies before you bake them. You can add oil to the filling, or melted butter (both of those add the fat back in that isn't in the beef). Or you can use some gravy, or beef broth. Just be careful! You don't want the filling to be too wet. Just enough to make the everything hold together.

And a third note - When you cube the meat and vegetables, make sure the cubes are uniform in size, about ¼”. I bought thin cut round steak, and since it was already about ¼” thick, making the little cubes was easier. After I finished, I thought I should have tried using my food processor. The size of the pieces doesn’t matter, as long as they’re small and uniform so they cook evenly.

My dogs always want to share whatever I cut on the cutting board, and yes, I do give them the scraps. Wynter isn’t too sure about veggies, but doesn’t want to be left out.

Connor, on the other hand, inhaled his piece of parsnip so fast, the only picture I was able to get was him looking for more…. 

You will also need one egg beaten with about 1 Tablespoon water to make an egg wash.

And now you’re asking “What is Swede? Do I have to cook a Swedish person?” Ewww. No one would eat it! No, Swede is the British term for a yellow turnip, or Rutabaga. I didn’t have Swede, or Rutabaga, so I substituted a white turnip and a couple parsnips.

Roll out a small portion of your pie crust dough into a round about 1/8” thick, and larger than 6” in diameter.

Using a 6” plate or bowl, cut a circle out of the dough.

Place a spoonful of filling in the center of the dough (be generous, but not so much that you can’t seal the Pasty). Next, brush some egg wash on the edge of the circle with a pastry brush.

Bring the edges together and seal them, making a half-moon shape, then fold and crimp the edges with your fingers to make a secure seal.

Move your Pasty carefully to a greased baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper), and brush egg wash over the surface.

Bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes. (And don’t go to another room and get lost on the internet like I did when these were baking…they were in for an hour…).

You can serve these warm or cold, but believe me, they’re better warm. Gravy is a nice addition, too...

Can you think of other dishes that span cultures like this one? Let’s hear about them!

Jan Drexler loves her family, her home, cooking and just about anything made by hand. But she loves her Lord most of all.

Stop by Jan's website to learn more about her books:


  1. Don't forget the Mexican empanada and the Creole Natchitoches meat pie! Truly a dish that every culture has, although the Chinese sweet meat dumpling seems a closer relative than the wonton, because it uses dough instead of rice paper.

    Anyway, I'd say another dish would be chicken soup. Whether the noodles are thick egg noodles, wonton scraps, glass noodles, or dumplings, it seems like every culture has some form of chicken-broth-veggies-noodle.

    1. You're right about the chicken soup! Truly a dish that spans cultures! And then there's the melding of the soup and the hand pie that turns into chicken pot pie.

      And that has another wide range of cultural appearances!

      Isn't food amazing?

  2. Love the doggie pictures. Wynter looks like a polar bear! And Thatcher is so handsome. And old Connor looks like the best dog ever for sure. Carrots have always been the all time favourite of the canines near and dear to my heart. Never tried them on parsnips.

    What a lot has happened in those five years!!! Lots to celebrate and remember.

    1. I love parsnips. They are a lot like carrots, but they are better cooked than raw.

      And yes, we miss Connor. He was a great dog. :) Good memories!

  3. This look so good! And I'm glad you educated us on the spelling and pronunciation. I thought you'd put a typo in the title! LOL

  4. I forgot to stop in yesterday!!!!! I'm so sorry!

    I love fried parsnips. I'm sure it negates any good stuff in them, but sliced the long way (strips) and then fried in butter until almost burned but not quite.... I like them better than potato chips!!!! Mmmmm......... so good!

    And I love meat pies in any way, shape or form. There's something so amazingly Celtic or English about the thought of a pie-in-hand....

    In Scottsdale AZ there is an Australian "bakery" and they have pasties!!!! And pastries, too, and it's so funny how folks get the two confused.... but stopping into an AZ shop to buy Aussie food....

    Well, that's a smart person making his way in the world!

  5. I tried to post a comment yesterday, but for some reason I couldn't.

    I read this post first thing Monday morning and I was suddenly in a good mood thinking of Poldark. Thanks for the Cornish start to my day, Jan.