Regional Comfort Foods … The Cornish Pasty

My paternal great grandfather hails from Cornwall England near St Austell according to one relative — an area full of tin, copper and china clay mines. Cornwall is known as the home of a recognized distinct ancient tribal peoples called “The Cornish.” My great grandfather was a miner, and his son (my grandfather) became a mining engineer when he emigrated (as part of the great Cornish diaspora) to the great open pit Iron Ore mines of Northern Minnesota.


We were taught as children (and I presume it to be true) that a traditional lunch prepared for miners by their wives was the Cornish Pasty (rhymes with nasty, though it is anything but) carving their husband’s initials in the half moon pastries so that they would not be confused with others’.

The traditional pasty that we grew up eating and baking consists of a pie circle, filled with chopped beef, suet (which I now have to beg the butcher for), onion,potatoes and — most importantly — rutabaga (called turnips in Cornwall but milder in flavor). But many iterations contain other meats (like pork) and vegetables (like carrots). Folded in half and crimped on the unfolded side, these are baked for about 45 minutes at 350 F and are delicious! You can brush the tops with egg wash or milk.


Preparing for the bake …

I have a hard time finding rutabagas here in NC and when I do they tend to be so large as to be difficult to chop, so I recently substituted purple top turnips, which have a somewhat sharper flavor but are tender and smaller, and the pasties are still delicious! In our family, we always ate them warm, with ketchup on the side. But the ketchup is not mandatory. In fact, I have met folks who eat these with mustard as they do tend to be a little on the dry side undressed. But there are any manner of things you could dress them with if you do not like ketchup.


If you have a special family comfort food that you can trace to ancient times, please let me know!