Cornish pasties

Cornwall’s greatest gift to the world, via Mrs King’s Pork Pies

You say empanadas; Zoe of Mrs King’s Pork Pies says Cornish pasties, the forefathers of these South American pastries which, like so much South American cuisine, are enjoying a bit of a moment in London. Their 15 minutes is not undeserved: after all, who can fault that universally harmonious trio of meat, potatoes and pastry? It’s just that, well, the Cornish pastry came first.

“It was the Cornish miners who, when it became uneconomical to mine tin here, went to South America in great numbers and like all migrants, when they crossed the Atlantic took their favourite foods with them”—including, of course, the pasty, with its hearty filling and characteristic, shell-like ‘crimp’.

The all-important crimp
The crimp was then the important part—still is for that matter, but back then it was for reasons of practicality rather than flavour. “There was often arsenic along with the tin ore they were mining,” says Zoe, “so the miners would hold the crimp with their dirty hands and throw it away after eating.”

Thickly crusted and robustly buttery, today the idea of forgoing the sensation of shortcrust crumbling heartily under your teeth, as you stride along (in an ideal world) a Cornish beach, is almost inconceivable. For many, it is the best part. However: if you do happen to be a tin miner, there is plenty more to be getting on with in the Cornish pasties Mrs King’s stall sells.

Granted PGI status since 2007, they are, like all Cornish pasties, from Cornwall and truly handmade. Sourced fresh from a small, family-run bakery in the scenic seaside town of Padstow, their bulging parcels contain potato, onion, swede and beef skirt—“NOT beef mince,” Zoe feelingly warns.

A dollop of cream
“Oh, and Cornish clotted cream,” she grins, twinkling. “Just a dollop, added to the mix before cooking.” Sure enough, there is on reflection a subtle creaminess of taste. It’s a hint of luxurious potato mash; of buttered onions; of tender, grass-fed beef, wrapped up in a present of pastry and baked to its characteristic warm sandy colour.

Zoe “can’t provide the beach and sunshine”, but these pasties are Cornish through and through.