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Minimal effort, maximum taste: the best packed lunch recipes

These exciting, delicious dishes are cheaper than chips… and healthier, too!
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Proper Cornish Pasty

Proper Cornish Pasty

80p each for real steak pasties? The perfect home-made treat!

The classic Cornish pasty: all butter shortcrust pastry packed full of beef & vegetables; now that’s a proper packed lunch!

I couldn’t have a blog on the best packed lunch recipes without including the humble Cornish pasty. Pasties are the original portable meal — taken out to work by all manner of people who simply needed to eat on the job. But, as the Cornish Pasty Association tells us, “The wives of Cornish tin miners would lovingly prepare these all-in-one meals to provide sustenance for their spouses during their gruelling days down the dark, damp mines.” Luckily, my Hungry Hungry Husband doesn’t haven’t to work in a mine, but I thought that was quite a nice (if a little archaic!) summing up of what I’m doing nowadays.

The Cornish pasty definitely takes more time & effort than some of the other easier lunch recipes I do, but it is always worth it. The HHH can never resist the lure of the hot steak pasty, fresh out of the oven. And even less so when it’s made with flaky, buttery, home-made shortcrust pastry! I do prefer making my own pastry anyway (and knowing exactly what’s gone into it), but it does help to bring the total cost down, too.

I’ve tweaked it a little since, but the first time I made these, I followed a recipe for “Houseparty Steak Cornish Pasties” from Sam Stern’s Student Cookbook. Bought for me by my brother before I went to university, this was actually my very first recipe book! Although, truth be told, it still gets used fairly regularly now, so it must be a goodie. Thanks for the inspiration, Sam!

Prep time: 30 mins | Cook time: 40 mins | Servings: 6 pasties
Cost? I paid £4.85 for everything (including the pastry)

Finely chop 1 onion and cube 300g beef, 200g potatoes & 125g swede
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Full Instructions

Make the filling:

300g beef steak (cubed); 200g potatoes, skins on (cubed); 125g swede (cubed); 1 medium-sized onion (finely chopped); 1 tsp thyme; salt & pepper; 3 tsp water/gravy/beef stock

  1. Note: when chopping, the cubes of beef should be roughly twice as big as the cubes of potatoes & swede (see photos in gallery above)
  2. Mix the meat and veg together in a bowl, then season with thyme and salt & pepper
  3. Add the water (if you have any left-over gravy, or beef stock to spare, use this instead for more depth of flavour), give it all a good stir up and set aside for now

Make each Cornish pasty:

approx. 300g home-made or ready-made shortcrust pastry; 2–3 tsp milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
  2. Split the shortcrust pastry into 6 equal pieces
  3. Using a floured rolling pin on a well-floured surface, roll one of these pieces into a rough circle
  4. Pile a sixth of the filling in a line across the middle of the circle, making sure to leave a gap at either side
  5. Use a little water to lightly dampen all the way round the edge of the pastry circle
  6. Pull the top and bottom of the circle up and over, so they meet in the middle above the filling, and press the edges of the pastry together all the way across — that little bit of water should make it slightly sticky, which helps the two sides to seal together
    *tip* take a look at photo #7 in the gallery above if you’re not sure what I mean
  7. Fold that sealed edge over and pinch it firmly so they aren’t any/too many gaps — or crimp it closed if you want, but don’t worry too much if it’s not perfect, you’ll be eating them soon enough anyway!
    *tips for freezing* at this point you can put the whole Cornish pasty in a freezer bag and freeze it until needed
  8. Repeat with the other 5 pieces of pastry

Cook the Cornish pasties:

  1. Transfer the Cornish pasties to the baking tray and brush them all over lightly with milk
  2. Bake in the preheated 200°C oven for 15 minutes
  3. Turn the heat down to 190°C and bake for a further 15–20 minutes or until golden brown all over
  4. Take them out when they’re done and eat as soon as possible — hot or cold, for lunch!
  5. Alternatively, leave them to cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container (preferably outside of the frirdge so they don’t go too soft)

Freezing & reheating:

*tips for freezing* you can freeze each Cornish pasty whole until you need it — sealed in a freezer bag (see photo #9). They cook well from frozen, too:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C
  2. Put the frozen pasty on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake at that temperature for 40–50 minutes
  3. Just be aware that they won’t go quite as golden this way because you’re not brushing them milk before they go in the oven

*hot option* you could pop the pasties in the microwave for a few minutes, but the pastry will go soggy — best reheated in the oven for 10–15 mins at 160°C if possible, otherwise they’re just as delicious cold

Final thoughts from The Hungry Hungry Husband?

“They’re pasties, what’s not to like?! Also, probably the best smelling packed lunch Liv makes!”

The Hungry Hungry Husband - the hunt for the perfect packed lunch

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