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Poldark and Pasties

We love the sweeping seascapes and clifftops that Ross Poldark gallops past whenever he visits Truro or Trenwith. The mines and engine houses used during the filming are one of our best days out and luckily we can combine both when we pop down to visit Wheal Leisure.

Wheal Leisure* is perched precariously on the edge of the cliffs at Botallack, just along the coast from the old mining town of St Just. It’s one of our favourite walks with plenty of pasty eating spots along the way.

Explore to your heart’s content and when you’ve got enough photographs to fill your Poldark album, choose your spot to sit back, listen to the birds, and imagine the rumble of horses hooves as the ever-so-handsome Captain Poldark heaves into view on his way to work…then it’s time to break out the pasties.

(Please note – the real name of Poldark’s Wheal Leisure is actually Cargodna Pumping Engine House of Wheal Owles.)

The Cornish pasty

Instantly recognisable, this tasty pastry treat is available virtually everywhere these days, but did you know that it was originally eaten by Cornish miners? The thick crimp down one side was used to hold the pasty so the miners could eat underground with dirty hands – and then the crimp was thrown away for the ‘Knockers’ to eat.

According to legend, Knockers were naughty little sprites that lived underground, and were thought to steal the miners’ tools and food, as well as causing cave-ins. The original Cornish pasty was made with meat and veg at one end – commonly potato, swede, onion and mutton – and jam at the other end, so the miners could have a two course lunch.

If you fancy making your own, here’s a proper Cornish recipe from one of the best pasty makers in Cornwall, Ann. Here’s enough to make four eight-inch pasties…

Ann’s pasty recipe


Making the pastry

450g 1lb strong white flour (large pinch salt optional)
100g 4oz margarine (Echo or similar hard variety)
110g 4oz lard
175ml 1/3pt water

Put the flour and salt (if used) into a bowl. Cut off a quarter of the lard and rub into flour. Grate or slice the rest of the fats into the mixture and stir with a knife. Pour all the water in and stir until absorbed. Knead a little and leave at least 30 minutes in the fridge before using. Pastry can be made the day before, wrapped in polythene and stored in the fridge overnight. Pastry freezes well, but remember to take it out the night before you need it. Do not refreeze.

Pasty filling (enough for one pasty)

50g 2oz onion or shallot (some people like leek)
50-75g 2-3oz turnip (swede)
100g 4oz beef skirt or chuck steak
150g 6oz sliced potatoes
black pepper, salt

how to make them


Keep the sliced potatoes in a basin of cold water until needed. Trim and gristle off the meat and cut it (with some fat) into 6 mm (1/4 in) pieces.

Generously flour the board or area you are using. This allows the pastry to relax as you roll, especially if you flip the pastry up from the surface every now and then. Cut off a quarter of the prepared pastry. Roll it out, keeping the shape, into a circle 21-23 cm (8-9 in) across. The pastry should now be the right thickness. Place an upturned plate over the pastry and trim round to get a good shape.

Place most of the turnip and onion across the centre of the round. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper to taste.

Place meat along the top and well into the ends – season the meat with a little salt. Top the meat with most of the potato and the remainder of the turnip.

Sprinkle again with a little salt and add the remaining potato. Do not season the top layer – salt directly in contact with pastry can make it taste slightly bitter.

Dampen one side of the pastry with a little water. If you dampen the pastry all round or use too much water you will find the edges slide instead of sealing, so don’t slosh it on.

Fold the damp side of the pastry to the other and press firmly but gently together, so that you have a seam down across the pastry, or by the side – whichever you find easier. From the right side if you are right-handed (or the left if you are left-handed) fold over the corner and crimp by folding the pastry seam over and over to the end. Tuck in the end well to seal. Alternatively, if you find this difficult, just curl the edge like a wave.

Make a small slit in the top with a knife and patch any other breaks or holes with a little dampened rolled-out pastry.

Brush the pasties with milk or egg wash or even just water and place them on buttered paper or a greased and floured tray, leaving 5 cm (2 in) between them.

Bake in a hot oven 220C (425F, gas 7) for 20 to 30 minutes. Check the pasties. If brown, turn them down to 160C (325F, gas 3). Bake for another 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave them in the oven for another 15 minutes with the door shut.

If you’re eating them picnic style, place the pasties onto a cooling tray and wait 15 minutes before eating. If you want to eat them an hour or so later, or are taking them on a journey, wrap them straight from the oven in paper and then a clean cloth.

And if all that’s too much trouble, you can order one of Ann’s delicious pasties online. Here’s the link to your next lunch!

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