Davidstow Cheddar have been making cheese on the north coast of Cornwall for over 70 years. Heavily influenced by the slower pace of the Cornish countryside and rich culinary heritage. Davidstow only source milk from farms within the county where the combination of good rainfall and plentiful sunshine results in lush green fields. In turn this provides perfect grazing for our dairy herds, producing milk that’s higher in fats and ideal for cheese-making. This month I wanted to celebrate another Cornish icon from our foodie landscape and take a trip back in time to visit the mines of west Penwith. My trip down west inspired a celebration of the Cornish pasty with a Davidstow inspired recipe.
The area around the famed Crowns engine house in Botallack, boasts ‘being the most photographed stretch of coastline in Britain’ and when you see it you won’t be surprised. The Cornish coastline is renowned for its wild beauty and this area has been made hugely popular in recent years with the award-winning BBC Poldark drama series where it starred as a romantic location. Steeped in proud history it’s also part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage site. Botallack Mine is a walk back through time and is alive with proud industrial traditions. There is an excellent example of a more recently operational mine up the coast at Geevor that is well worth visiting, but the Botallack mines and pump houses have now fallen into disrepair and become an intrinsic part of the wild Tin Coast. The coastal path transports you back into the footsteps of miners and the sound of the sea is only punctuated with the shrill cry of a kestrel or swoop of nesting peregrines patrolling the cliffs. On a clear day from the high vantage points it’s also the perfect spot for seeing Basking Sharks congregating down below.
As most people know nowadays the Cornish pasty was a practical meal designed to fuel the hard-working miners on their daily grind down below ground. The pastry was crimped to bake an entire meal in one handy parcel. The crimp could be discarded after eating the main pasty, so they could eat with dirty hands. In fact, the traces of arsenic on their hands would have rubbed off on the crimp and it’s believed that rats lurking down the shafts who ate the scraps would have died – so an early form of pest control.
The myths and legends around mining is a whole other conversation and I love the different versions and tales of sweet pudding in one end and main meal in the other. It was often said the crimp would keep the knockers who dwelled in the dark happy. Other superstitions include never take a pasty onboard a boat (unless you tear off the end of the crimp to let the devil out). Never ever, put peas or carrots in a pasty. Moreover, every region of Cornwall has their own favourite pasty baker. Pasty legends from Ann’s pasties down on the Lizard to Barnecutt’s near Bodmin or Philps around Hayle and St Ives. My son has sworn me to secrecy with our family recipe for a proper beef pasty, but this one is perfect for vegetarians and cheese lovers. An authentic taste of Cornwall to be enjoyed around the country.
Of course, a proper and officially recognised ‘Cornish pasty’ is always made with beef skirt, onion, potato and swede (or turnip as we call it down here). It has to be made in Cornwall and crimped on the side. I used to be a board member of the CPA (Cornish Pasty Association) so I know my pasties. For me, the way mature Davidstow Cheddar crumbles resembles the rugged cliffs of west Cornwall. I could think of no better recipe to celebrate my field trip than the humble cheese and onion pasty, elevated to the next level with a little extra time and great ingredients. I hope that his is a pasty that the Cornish miners would be proud of. My Davidstow version is a pasty made and crimped in Cornwall. Cornish cheese instead of beef and it’s a real celebration of the old and new. The best recipes take time to get right and I’ve been making this one for over 10 years, when I used to run an award-winning artisan pasty company. I hope you enjoy it and that if you are lucky enough to visit Cornwall you make time to view the scenic landscape around Botallack.
Take a trip down west to the rugged cliffs of Cornwall and try this Davidstow Pasty recipe
DAVIDSTOW CHEDDAR & ONION PASTY
Makes 6 pasties
200g of 18 month mature Crackler Davidstow Cheddar, grated
1 white onion, diced
150g potato, finely chopped or diced
150g swede or turnip, finely chopped or diced
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
750g Shortcrust pastry
1 Egg, beaten
DAVIDSTOW CHEDDAR & ONION PASTY
- Preheat your oven to 200˚C. On a floured surface roll out your pastry into pasty rounds approximately 20cm in diameter.
- Next prepare your pasty filling by grating your Davidstow Cheddar. Mix with onion, potato, swede and season well.
- Then deposit a portion of filling into the centre of each pastry round. Fold the pastry over and with well-floured hands fold the pastry into a rope-like crimp. I use my right hand’s thumb and index finger to fold the pastry towards me and tuck it in on itself whilst my left hand guides the pastry and helps keep the crimp tight. When you get to the end fold over the pastry and press back down on itself with your thumb.
- Glaze the pastry with beaten egg or milk and sprinkle with some extra grated Davidstow cheddar. Pierce the pasty with a fork or knife for the steam to escape and avoid boil out of the filling.
- Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 15 minutes at 200˚C. Then reduce the temperature to 180˚C and bake for a further 20 minutes. The pasty will be golden brown and the cheese & onion filling melted and hot. Try serving with some chutney and a salad or enjoy eaten on its own.
James Strawbridge is the author of The Artisan Kitchen and Davidstow Cheddar’s Cornish development chef.
As most people know nowadays the Cornish pasty was a practical meal designed to fuel the hard-working miners on their daily grind down below ground.