Beef & ale Cornish pasties

Having not made pasties in a long while, I felt it time to make a batch.

With this recipe I made a few tweaks to the classic pasty for personal preference:

  • the pastry: I have gone for rough-puff pastry, but this time with the inclusion of a little lard as part of the fat content
  • the filling: I cooked most of the filling first, to give a richer stew flavour

The pastry:

I prefer a lighter, flakier pastry, so rough-puff, rather than shortcrust, was my preferred choice here. I added a little lard into the mixture which gives a lovely melt-in-the-mouth feel about it. It is very easy to make, and a short-cut batch that I have gone for can be made up quite quickly, giving excellent results: rich, buttery, crisp and flaky……

You can, of course, use shortcrust or commercial all-butter puff pastry.

Cooking the filling:

Traditionally for a Cornish pasty you have the filling ingredients raw in the pastry before baking. However, purely for maximum flavour inside, I like to cook the filling first, along with some of the veg, essentially giving a rich casserole. This also gives you a bit more of a richly flavoured sauce inside which I prefer.

In the same vein, pasties are a great way to use up left-over casserole: particularly ideal in the winter months.

For texture, some of the vegetables (the potato and some of the swede and onions) are added to the casserole just after the casserole has cooked: the residual heat will start to soften them and the veg will finish off cooking in the oven when encased in the pastry.

Top Tips

  • if cooking the filling beforehand, fry the steak pieces until they go dark brown to get the best flavour
  • don’t over-fill the pasties: if you do, it will be harder to seal them without stretching the pastry, and the filling will be likelier to burst out
  • brush only a little water over half of the rolled out discs to help the pastry stick; too much water and the pastry will slip all over the place and not stick
  • the off-cuts made from cutting out the circles can be placed together, slightly overlapping, and rolled out gently to give extra pasties: the overlapping pieces will stick together with gentle rolling

Recipe for Cornish pasties – makes 7 medium pasties

Rough-puff pastry (or use about 500g bought all-butter puff pastry)

  • 250g strong plain flour
  • 130g chilled unsalted butter, in small rough cubes
  • 50g chilled lard, in small rough cubes
  • 5g fine salt
  • about 130ml cold water


  • 300g chuck steak or braising steak, chopped into about centimetre pieces
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • about 100g swede, peeled and then sliced thinly and chopped into rough squares
  • 1 large waxy potato, sliced thinly and chopped into rough squares
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 300ml ale of choice
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard, made up (not powdered)
  • a few tablespoons vegetable oil for frying the steak
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour dissolved in a little water

Make the filling:

(1) Heat the oil until very hot and add the beef, a batch at a time. Fry until the meat takes on a dark brown colour (this is where a lot of the flavour comes from). Transfer to a small pan.

(2) Add about half of the onion and half of the swede and fry until starting to colour. Add these to the browned meat. Return the frying pan to the heat and pour the ale, scraping against the base of the pan to remove those lovely dark brown bits and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce to about a third of the original volume and stir in the mustard, salt and pepper.

(3) Pour the ale mixture into the casserole or pan with the meat, stir well, cover the pan and heat on the hob on a very low setting for about an hour and a half. You need to cook until the meat is just tender and the mixture should be at barely a simmer throughout. Stir from time to time to stop it catching on the bottom. Alternatively, bring the ingredients to a simmer, transfer to a casserole dish and place in the oven, covered, at about 120C (fan) for about 2 hours.

(4) Stir in a little of the cornflour and water mixture to thicken and simmer gently for a few minutes, adding more if you feel you need it: you should have a very thick sauce rather than it being at all runny. Remove from the heat.

(5) Stir the potatoes along with the rest of the pieces of swede and onions, and leave to cool.

Make the pastry (or use bought puff pastry and go to the assembling stage below):

(1) Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and stir in the butter and lard pieces, coating them well with the flour. Add most of the cold water and stir to form a soft but not sticky dough, adding more if necessary. Cover with clingfilm and ideally chill for about 30 minutes.

(2) Roll out the dough to a large, fairly thin rectangle and fold in three letter-style: bring the bottom third up over the dough and bring the top third over this. Give a quarter turn and repeat the rolling and turning two more times. (You can do it more times if you want but this is not essential here as you get a very good flake with 3 turns). If at any point the butter is becoming too soft, chill the dough for 20 minutes or so.

(3) Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes until you want to use it. Or freeze it for later use.


(1) Roll out the chilled pastry to a thin large rectangle and cut out discs as large or as small as you want. I used a 15cm saucer to cut around, giving me 7 pasties in total, using the off-cuts for the final 2 pasties (see Top Tips above). Place about a tablespoon of the filling mixture into the centre of each, taking care not to put too much in: you want a sizeable pastry rim around the mixture.

(2) Brush a little water over half of each pastry rim and bring half of the pastry up and over the filling until it meets the other half, patting gently on the top. Press gently to seal at the join and then either make marks using a fork along the seal or crimp.

(3) Brush the tops with beaten egg and make a small hole in the top. Bake at 180C(fan) for about 30 minutes until deep golden brown.

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

6 thoughts on “Beef & ale Cornish pasties”

  1. I needed to use up some beef so, as I didn’t have any swede I used carrot and ready rolled pastry. I then followed the recipe minus the cornflour mix and the next day added a drop of leftover gravy from the freezer before adding to the pastry.
    They were the best and tastiest pasties I’ve ever made – in fact the first for many many years as the traditional ones I made before were always complete failures!


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