Along with good sausage rolls, a good pasty can be hard to beat as a quick snack and they are so simple to make.
I often make double the quantity, freeze those that are not eaten immediately (sometimes there are some left to freeze!) – the frozen ones take little time to defrost and are great warmed up in the oven. But even making a fresh batch takes little time. I sometimes make smaller, bite-sized pasties to serve with drinks as appetisers.
I have made these with puff pastry but my preference here is shortcrust pastry and when made with a mixture of lard and butter you get a wonderfully crisp, melt-in-the-mouth experience: a far cry from most pasties that are characterised by thick, “doughy” pastry that tastes of nothing other than the greasy mess that it sadly so often is!
One of the exciting bits about a pasty and, come to think of it, pies in general, is when some of the filling oozes out of the top as it cooks, trickles down the side and caramelises. It’s that “homely feel” that never fails to add a satisfying note!
Cheese and onion is a great filling and requires very little preparation, although my other favourite fillings include:
- cauliflower cheese – it might sound odd, but it really works
- lamb with mint – a great way to use left-over roast lamb, with a bit of gravy and fresh mint
- spiced lamb with apricots: minced lamb, sauteed with onions, garlic, cumin, coriander with a few chopped dried apricots
- pork, slow cooked with cider and fresh sage, with small chunks of chopped apple added to the cooked filling
- Brie, bacon and cranberries – particularly wonderful at Christmas
- slowly cooked steak in Guinness with onions, swede, potatoes
Whatever filling is used, it is important to ensure it is cool before putting onto the pastry. The pastry trimmings can be re-rolled with any left-over filling to make more pasties (or tasters – always a perk when baking!!)
Cheese and Onion Pasties – makes 8
- 200g plain flour
- 50g unsalted butter
- 50g lard
- large pinch of salt
- cold water
- 150-200g mature cheddar, grated
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped sage
- salt and pepper to season
- olive oil or butter to fry
- cold water
- beaten egg
(1) Make the pastry – rub the butter and lard into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the salt and add enough cold water to bring together to form a soft dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill until needed.
(2) Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onions and sage until the onions have just softened, but have not browned. Leave to cool and then add the cheese and seasoning. Note: For quicker pasties, you don’t need to cook the onions but make sure they are chopped very finely. They will cook a little in the oven and will lose some of their raw heat. Spring onions also work well. The proportions for the onion and cheese can be varied according to taste.
(3) Roll out the pastry thinly and, using a small saucer, cut 8 circles. You can make miniature pasties using a pastry cutter if preferred.
(4) Place about a dessertspoon of filling on the middle of each circle and shape to a rough oval shape and brush water around the edge of the pastry. Carefully bring up the pastry over the filling (it can stretch a little if needed) and pinch to seal. Crimp along the seal for a decorative flourish!
(5) Chill in the fridge for about half an hour. While the pasties are chilling, pre-heat the oven to 180C.
(6) Brush the pasties liberally with the egg and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.