Philip Harben had a tremendous way with words, ‘a hefty envelope of good pastry enclosing a tasty filling’ is how he describes a Cornish pasty, and adds that the important thing with a pasty is that ‘it must travel and be in tact when it comes to eat it.’ travelling pasties are just the thing for picnics, and it amuses me, and I think him, that he then wrote ‘People who pride themselves on their light hand with short pastry will not make good pasties – light fragile pastry may be delightful in the dining-room but just won’t stand up to the job for which Cornish pasties were intended.’
Here is his story of a tin-miner who married a proud cook:
There is a story, that Cornishmen love to tell, of a tin-miner who married a woman who prided herself greatly on her cooking/ The day she made him her first pasty, which she promised him would be far better than any his old mother had ever given him, she waited eagerly for his return from work to hear his praise. But he came back in a vile temper: his pasty by the time he came to eat it was smashed to pieces (‘scat to fents’ was the actual expression he used). her pastry was not a bit good for pasties. Any Cornishman will tell you that to be any good a pasty must be so firm that you can drop it down the shaft of a tin mine! (That is counsel of perfection which in the interests of gastronomy need not be taken too literally.)
His simple recipe is 5 oz fat to 1 lb flour, and I guess a little salt, and less water than you would normally use to make a stiff pastry.