Image credits: Annabel Elston
Ask anyone from across the UK for one icon that defines Cornwall, and the answer is nearly always the same: the pasty. With its roots placed firmly in Cornish mining history (a hot pasty was the perfect hand-held meal for hungry labourers), debates still rage heartily across the Duchy today regarding correct crimping technique, the ideal ratio of fillings and of course, who makes the best bleedin’ pasty!
As a relative newcomer to Cornwall, I’ll admit that pasty-fever has not yet completely taken hold; I can survive perfectly fine without a daily fix, and I lack the discerning palette of an accomplished connoisseur. However, I’ve sampled my fair share in my time here, and after a long surf or a walk across the cliff tops nothing hits the spot quite like a good old oggy. I’ve taken it upon myself to conduct some thorough research, by sampling various offerings ranging from hardcore traditional to riskily adventurous, in order to bring you a beginner’s guide to the Cornish favourite...
The Iconic One
Warrens are officially the oldest pasty maker in Cornwall, and have been hand-crimping pasties since 1860. Using traditional methods and classic fillings, you can’t go wrong with their best seller – a classic Cornish steak pasty of course! A great introduction to the pasty world, and this large chain of bakeries is pretty easy to stumble upon across the county.
The Old-School One
The oldest pasty recipe dates back to 1510, and upon stepping into Ferrell’s of St Ives, you can imagine that they’re still using that very same one. A tiny little shop nestled into one of St Ives’ winding streets, Ferrell’s do things the good old-fashioned way. Their selection of homemade cakes and pastries are also fantastic, and transport you back to the days of old. Be sure to get in early, as they’ll all be gone by lunchtime.
The Posh One
Though it became standard fair for working-class miners, the pasty was once enjoyed solely by the upper classes, with 12th century texts referencing pasties in feasts amongst Britain’s royalty. If one’s palette is a little more refined, perhaps The Chough Bakery’s award-winning Steak and Cornish Blue Cheese pasty will hit the spot, complete with clotted cream for an extra rich filling. Pay them a visit on the outskirts of pretty Padstow to step your pasty-sampling experience up a notch.
The Big One
The Horse and Jockey in Porthleven is known as much for its charmingly friendly staff as it is for its enormous pasties – proper dinner-sized portions, perfect for enjoying after a stroll around Porthleven’s picturesque harbour. Highly ranked on Tripadvisor and a real local favourite, the Horse and Jockey really know their stuff, and offer fantastic freshly-baked bread to boot.
The Veggie One
Not a meat-eater? Don’t lose heart, you’re well catered for - the West Cornwall Pasty Co do an award-winning vegan wheatmeal pasty, well-seasoned and stuffed full with veggies.
The Alternative One
I have a confession: I prefer chicken pasties to steak. I know, sacrilege! I am cautious not to admit this too loudly in public to avoid shocked gasps from die-hard traditionalists, but chicken pasties are really rather good. Martin’s Bakery in St Austell have been a family-run business for nearly 150 years, and their Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom offering is a firm favourite amongst us unconventional folk.
The Spicy One
A Rowe’s Bakery can be found in almost every town in Cornwall, and for good reason. Known for their traditional steak pasties, they were also the first establishment to use Reggae Reggae sauce commercially, in their brilliantly spicy Reggae Reggae Chicken pasty. About as far from traditional Cornish as you can get, this Caribbean feast will blow your socks off and transport you to a more tropical clime.
The Postal One
Not booked your holiday in Cornwall just yet? Philps Pasties will deliver a hot box of your favourite oggies to addresses across the UK, so you can get a taste of the Cornish experience from the comfort of your own home... or for when you’re in Cornwall, but can’t drag yourself away from the beach to get your pasty fix!
Serving suggestion: pasties are best enjoyed with a cold cider, a sea view, and sandy toes.