Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Cornish vs. Welsh pasties

The Cornish pasty originated as a working man’s lunch in the 18th Century, amidst the boom in tin and copper mining in Cornwall. Thick pastry kept the filling secure and warm. The crimping acted as a handle that could be thrown away (these men’s hands were dirty), while initials could be inscribed into this part of the pastry. The Cornish pasty was taken around Britain and to the USA by miners, as the Cornish mining industry declined. Today, traditional pasties are enjoying a revival, with an increase in the number of high-street outlets specializing in them. In Cardiff, The Cornish Bakehouse opened in 2005, while the Pembrokeshire Pasty and Pie Co opened at the end of 2010.

The Cornish Bakehouse originated in St. Ives, Cornwall in 1990. There are now 23 shops, from Cornwall to Colchester in the east, as far north as Wolverhampton, and with two in Wales. The Cardiff shop is on the corner opposite the entrance to St. John’s on Church Street. The pasties are made by Crantock Bakery and sold as “the true taste of Cornwall”. Authenticity is the keyword, and the pasties are traditionally crimped. Steak-filled traditional pasties are sold in four sizes (small to giant). These (small, £1.85) have a good amount of mildly-spiced meat filling, with easily digested, thinly-sliced potato and swede pieces, and taste just like you’d expect a good Cornish pasty to taste. A wide range of fillings are available, including 'gourmet pasties'. I tried the Moroccan Spiced Vegetable (£2.75), which was pleasant, but I did not like the spicy crust on the pasty casing. Take-away and some seats for eating in.

The Pembrokeshire Pasty and Pie Co is based in Tenby, Pembrokeshire. The outlet at the St Mary Street end of the Royal Arcade in Cardiff is only their second shop. Without the Cornish tradition, there is more scope for reinterpretation. The first thing to go is the pastry crimping. There is less pastry-to-filling, and the pastry is flakier, to a non-traditional extent, with a glazed finish. These are pasties with a Welsh twist, and with funky names (The Fiery Dragon, The Tenby Treat). The emphasis is on local produce, all sourced within Pembrokeshire whenever possible. The Original Pembrokeshire Pasty (smaller size, £2.50) has Welsh lamb, with Welsh redcurrant jelly and currants. It's the tastiest pasty I have ever eaten. The Vegetable Surprise (£2.50) contained leek and potato in a cheddar cheese sauce, and was indeed a pleasant surprise. The shop is roomy, but entirely take-away (though handy for the railway station).

So, if you fancy an authentic, hearty Cornish pasty then the Cornish Bakehouse is for you, but if you fancy a lighter, more modern, Welsh variation on the pasty then check out the Pembrokshire Pasty and Pie Co.

The Cornish Bakehouse, 11 Church Street, Cardiff. http://www.cornish-bakehouse.com/

The Pembrokeshire Pasty and Pie Co., 1-3 Royal Arcade, St Mary Street, Cardiff. http://www.parcelsofmagic.com/

Stephen Nottingham adds (March 2011)
The Pembrokeshire Pasty and Pie Co have added stools and a window table since this blog was first posted.


  1. I just found your blog, good stuff!

    Would like a recipe to try in making a pasty if you have the time...

  2. Yes, I would welcome a good pasty recipe. Thanks for commenting.

  3. What a treat to have come across your blog, Stephen! Consider yourself bookmarked in NYC. My fella is from Newport -- we visit annually or thereabouts to see the fam (if airfares would come down, we'd certainly come around more often). If the gods of food truck licensing would allow, I think a pasty truck on the streets of the Big Apple would make a killing. In the interim, I'll try to recreate the real deal here in the home galley, sans compensation. Thank you for taking the time to write this blog!

  4. My Grandmother gave me this recipe for Pasties. She is from Upper Peninsula of Michigan and her family made them.
    5 lbs of Beef Steak
    5 lbs of Pork Steak
    10 lbs of Potatoes
    10 lbs of Carrots
    A basic pie dough crust made with lard (9 inch pie)
    Salt and Pepper to taste
    Diced the Meat and vegetables to approx same size
    Mix in a fresh garbage bag
    Place mixture in one side of round 9 inch crust
    fold over and crimp. Place on cookie sheet and puncture with a fork
    three or four times to let out steam.
    Bake in a 400 degree oven for approx 35 minutes.
    This recipe makes more than 30 pasties. My grandmother made this meal for her family's Christmas dinner in a kitchen so small you could barely turn around in it. Not only were the pasties made from scratch, so was the other dishes that she also served.
    The ratio is 1 lb of meat to 1 lb of potatoes to 1 lb of carrots. You can substitute meat (I did hamburger and Italian hot sausage) This ratio makes 4 pasties.
    I have made 32 at once and froze the rest. (I live alone) I also cut them in half. Friends come over and ask for one or two because they are broke and hungry. It is one very filling meal and brings me joy to share. My last batch cost 144.00 dollars. I used Beef Sirloin and Pork Sirloin. Now I invite my friends over for a pastie party and we split the cost, labor and the loot.
    It is coming onto winter, time to make more. What a great way to spend time with friends.