Desperately Seeking “Curley”…Our Tasmanian Cornish Pasty.

Pasty rolled out like a plate,
Piled with “turmut, tates and mate.”
Doubled up, and baked like fate,
That’s a “Cornish Pasty.”
(An old rhyme originating around Breage, Cornwell)

What with all the discussion on Masterchef about recreating your childhood memories on the plate, my thoughts crossed Bass Strait venturing into the Apple Isle where my husband grew up eating Cornish Pasties. Geoff used to buy Cornish Pasties at the school canteen where they were affectionately known as “Curlies”. He loves Cornish Pasties and as much as he loves the taste, they also evoke memories of lush green, rolling hills and being back home on the farm with Mum and Dad.

Mulberry Cottage cropped

Geoff’s Childhood Home.


Whenever we’ve gone back to Tasmania, we’ve had to stop off at Poole’s Milk bar in his home town of Scottsdale to buy Cornish Pasties, including a stash to take home. As much as we’ve tried to find a local equivalent, nothing has ever matched up. They weren’t “the same”.

Knowing how much Geoff loves Cornish Pasties, I thought I should try making them. Looking for inspiration,  I Googled Poole’s Milk Bar last night. It wasn’t good news. Unfortunately, it has closed down and the building is up for sale. So, it seems that the great, inimitable Curley has joined the ranks of the  Tasmanian Tiger in reported extinction. Perhaps, like reported sightings of the tiger, it’s still out there somewhere but it’s going to be hard to track down, particularly from “the mainland”.

This now leaves me trying to recreate what my husband knows as the Cornish Pasty without really knowing what it was like. Hedging my debts, I’ve opted to make the traditional Cornish Pasty. Scottsdale was a very traditional, country farming area settled in part by Cornish immigrants. Indeed, Geoff’s grandmother was descended from Francis French from Pelynt, Cornwall who arrived in Hobart Town  on the 23 August 1831.

Also, when we’re talking about my husband’s childhood, we’re winding back the clock 40 years and food was very different then.

geoff-6 and terry-22 feb 73

Geoff left with his BIG Brother.

So, after checking out a few recipes, I found a recipe put out by the Cornish Pasty Association, which you can check out here: Traditional Cornish Pasty Recipe

Trying to replicate a traditional recipe poses its own challenges.  While I’m creative and inventive, the skill here lies in replicating the original in the same way a concert pianist reproduces Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and doesn’t fuse it with chop sticks, their own composition or even Fur Elise. This means easing yourself inside Beethoven’s skin and reproducing his work with as much heart, empathy and sensitivity as you can muster. Otherwise, you can go write your own piece of music and call it what you like.It’s the same with the Cornish Pasty. You replicate the original in all its glory, or you call it something else.

However, replicating a traditional dish, is not without its challenges. Just like I can feel baffled by unknown “modern” or exotic ingredients, with the traditional Cornish Pasty, I am feeling equally bamboozled by the old. The pasty calls for dripping, which I haven’t seen since I was a kid. It also uses a Swede. I have used Swedes once before but they’re what I’d call “cow food” or at best “old school”, which I guess is part and parcel of recreating a traditional dish.

Making the pasty seems straight forward enough and the recipe comes with good, detailed instructions suited to the uninitiated or “virgin” Cornish Pasty maker. I appreciate this because too many recipes assume too much, preempting your inevitable “disaster”.

Yet, there’s one part that has me quietly shaking in my boots and that’s making the curly top.  Apparently, “a good hand crimp is usually a sign of a good handmade pasty.”

Note that it says “good hand crimp”, not slap-dash, sloppy or completely messed up. Knowing my luck, my “curley” will end up with straight hair looking in need of a perm!

However, what am I thinking expecting perfection on my first attempt? It takes practice to make perfect and indeed, it’s almost arrogant to think I could produce a professional quality Cornish Pasty on my first attempt… especially as a novice! I need to stop expecting too much of myself.

It’s okay to make mistakes and certainly not the end of the world.

Oh dear! While I’ve been writing about making my Cornish Pasties, time’s completely runaway from me. The pastry needs to rest for 3 hours and the pasties take around 50 minutes to cook and then dashing off for school pick-up before I can even think of getting started. . This means I need to run or these pasties will be a midnight snack and we’ll have no dinner.
head scarf ro

Heading out incognito to buy dripping, swedes and skirt steak.

This leaves me heading out to the shops looking for dripping, skirt steak and swedes. I might need to find myself a huge pair of sunglasses. After all, there’s retro and there’s retro… Soon, I’ll be wearing a scarf!

Have you even made Cornish Pasties or have any memories of them? Have you been to Cornwell and tried the real deal? I’d love to hear your tales.
xx Rowena
PS I’ll be back to report on the results.

36 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking “Curley”…Our Tasmanian Cornish Pasty.

  1. TanGental

    Eaten loads, even on Cornwall. So good many bloody awful. There’s even a fast food chain of Cornish pasty shops. Can’t get away from them !

  2. Tails Around the Ranch

    As a transplanted Yank (from Germany), no clue to offer on the Curleys, only know that party crimping takes practice. If the innards are good though, who cares what they look like. The stomach happily accepts them. 😉

  3. Rowena Post author

    You’ve just given me visions of Cornish Pasty heaven. Geoff would be stoked. They’re quite rare where we live, although I wasn’t surprised to find dripping and swedes in our local shops. We have a lot of retirees in our area.

  4. Rowena Post author

    You’ve welcome here anytime, Monika. Where abouts in Germany are you from? I lived in Heidelberg for about 6 months back in 1992. It doesn’t seem that long ago but…

  5. Jim

    I was introduced to these when I was stationed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. had a really good one when I toured thru Cornwall.

  6. roughwighting

    I’m so impressed that you are taking on this difficult challenging Cornish Pasty deed! I was born and bred in the US, but have English blood in me from several generations back. I never realized it as much as I did the first time I traveled to England, when I was in my early 30s. In Oxford touring around, lunchtime, stopped at a little stand that sold these things called Cornish Pastry. I nearly swooned upon the first bite. I was in heaven! Haven’t tasted anything like it here in the States.

  7. Rowena Post author

    Thanks, Merril. They turned out really well..except they were ready at 10.00PM. By the time I hit the supermarket, I knew I was pushing it but then I couldn’t find the skirt steak and then my daughter had her friend over. My kids had a few arguments and everything always seems to take longer. It’s been a good exercise in time management and mastering my chopping skills!

  8. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much. I am trying to stretch myself and cooking it a good way to overcome fear…especially fear of making mistakes, which is hold me back more than I thought.
    I love your anecdote about trying Cornish pasties in Oxford.I’ve barely ever had them but I do remember living in Germany where they had these road side carts selling bretzel…large doughy pretzels covered in salt crystals. They were yum and served hot. There were also Nutella crepe stands in Paris. Why we don’t have them on every street corner right around the world, I don’t know. We were on holidays at Byron Bay a few years ago and there was a group of French backpackers selling crepes just off the beach. They didn’t have council approval or anything but sprung up no doubt out of a campervan. I really loved them! Doesn’t food give you that strong sense of place!

  9. Rowena Post author

    I went through Frankfurt, thought not the airport. I lived in Heidelberg and took a little girl to school in Kahlsruhe. My Mum is 3/4 German but our German origins date back to the first boatload of Germans to arrive in Australia on her Dad’s side and a bit later on her Mum’s. My grandfather was born in Hahndorf in South Australia and you might be interested in this post I wrote years back when we last visited:
    Your elections are looking very intense. I am quite nervous about the results. We had a politician similar to Donald Trump here called Pauline Hansen and she was very divisive but at the same time, she ended up being quite funny too and people started taking her off and some of her sayings have become embedded in our cultural lexicon like: “Please explain”. her influence deflated reasonably quickly but she didn’t have the money Trump has.

  10. Rowena Post author

    Thanks, Jim.
    It’s looking like Cornwall has been added to the bucket list! I’d like to see where my husband’s family came from but now I want to eat my way through the place on a diet of Cornish Pasties!

  11. Rowena Post author

    No, that’s from the web. I’ll be posting my effort later today and I must admit I’m very proud of my efforts. I even pulled off the curly top. The instructions made more sense once I was assembling it. xx Rowena

  12. Tails Around the Ranch

    I’ve been to Heidelberg, and loved it. My mother’s family goes back to the 1400’s and I think I’d give just about anything to go back permanently. Sadly EU regs prevent that. 😦 When they say “fatherland” they mean it and my dad is American and stationed in Frankfurt when he met my mom. *sigh*

    Yes, many of us (the sane ones anyway) are quite disturbed at the idea of a Trump presidency. The man is a mile wide and 1/4″ deep…among other things. Quite scary and I’m not sure what is worse, the horrid things he says or that people actually buy his rubbish and support him! Says a lot about our country and not good things. 😁

  13. Rowena Post author

    After messing around with the kids, I knew they’d never be ready in time for dinner but I was so curious to see how they turned out, that I kept going. A sensible person would’ve waited for today but the anticipation was getting to me.

  14. Rowena Post author

    Those EU regulations are very sexist and discriminatory…especially when you can be much more confident of your maternity than your paternity. Such a shame you can’t live there.
    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about Trump. Some people really do bring out the worst in people!

  15. derrickjknight

    If that’s your crimping, you have nothing to worry about. I love Cornish pasties, too. You can buy them on major railway stations in UK, and I often do. It is now illegal to call them Cornish unless they are made there.

  16. roughwighting

    Yes, food does. And maybe that’s why it’s good that we can only get pasties and Nutella crepes (my first Nutella experience was in Florence) seldom and only at a particular place. Makes the experience that much more special.

  17. Rowena Post author

    That wasn’t my crimping but you can see it in my current post and it was fairly good. What do they call Cornish Pasties now when they’re made outside Cornwell? Moreover, if you’re of Cornish descent, surely you should be able to call it a Cornish pasty…not that it includes me but my husband who is the Cornish pasty lover has some Cornish blood.
    Found out there is a Cornwell in Tasmania so I wonder if that counts LOL.

  18. Rowena Post author

    Sounds like you need to have Christmas in July, Mitch. That’s quite popular in Australia as our Christmas is in the middle of Summer.

  19. Hixton Grit

    I love pasties!! I’ve only ever had the pasties from Upper Michigan and Wisconsin. I like the rutabagas they dice up with the potatoes, etc. This was a very interesting post for me because it combines genealogy and food – two of my favorites! LOL! Thanks so much! Now I’m hungry for them.

  20. Rowena Post author

    Lovely to hear from you as geneology and food are also passions of mine, although much of my geneology at the moment is dealing with frustrating dead ends…as well as the more exciting thing of wriitng up some pretty interesting stories I stumbled across searching through old newspapers. You’ll probably enjoy a post I wrote recently about having High Tea in Queensland, which goes into the family history theme again:
    I’ll pop around and check out your blog xx Rowena

  21. Leeanne Cisotto

    there used to be a Cornish pasties I believe it was only sold in Scottsdale Tasmania called pools or pulls pasties that where the best Cornish pasties ever invented does anyone know if they are still made I would happily drive the hour or so to the north east to buy them

  22. Rowena Post author

    Hi Leeanne. My husband is from Scottsdale and the whole family raves about Poole’s Cornish pasties. Both Geoff and one of his sisters have been known to return to the Mainland with an esky full of them. UNfortunately, Poole’s closed down a few years ago but there’s a bakery attached to Kendall’s Pub in Scottsdale, which makes the real thing. Take it from me, my husband is extremely fussy about Cornish pasties and these pass muster. I also bought something from there like a blueberry turnover but it was something else and that was amazing too. Also, if you’re going to Scottsdale, there’s an amazing pizza shop which sells white chocolate and raspberry dessert pizzas. It’s on George Street opposite the Beehive Cafe near Lords Hotel. I’m salivating just thinking about it! xx Rowena

  23. Robert Jubb

    Greetings from Cornwall. We live in St Germans not far from the Tamar Valley and about 20 miles from Launceston. Here is our recipe for Cornish pasties. We buy skirt beef from the local butcher.
    I make a short crust pastry with half fat to plain flour. I usually make this and chill it overnight ready to use the next day.
    The pasty contents are.
    Skirt Beef cut into small pieces.[
    Swede, peeled and cut into small pieces ( the size of a finger nail)
    Potato cut the same as the swede into small pieces.
    Onion peeled and finely chopped.
    Season the meat with plenty of black pepper and sea salt.
    I usually use the same quantity of Swede and potato

    Roll out the pastry in a round using a dinner plate.
    place the contents potato , swede, onion and meat in the middle of the round . Wet the edge of the pastry with a brush and water. Fold one side over to the other and crimp along the edge. ( A Cornish pasty is always crimped along one edge not the top . A pasty crimped along the top is a Devonshire Pasty!.
    Place the pasties on a floured baking tray. Apply and beaten egg wash and place in a hot oven for one hour.

  24. Rowena Post author

    HI Robert,
    Thank you so much for your recipe and walking me through it. It has been awhile since I’ve made a Cornish pasty and you’re encouraging me to have another go.
    By the way, what has it been like in your neck of the woods since the Queen passed away and Prince Charles is now King? I’ve been watching the coverage over the weekend
    Take care and best wishes,

  25. Robert Jubb

    Hi Rowena. Lovely to hear from you. It is a sad time over here. It all seems quite unreal at the moment as we have never known another monarch in our life time. A few years ago King Charles was here in St Germans as he was going to buy Port Eliot House. I only saw him from a distance. I have been to Highgrove some years ago. I think he has good intentions and will make a good King but no one can ever replace Queen Elizabeth. I was interested in your links with Tasmania. It is somewhere I have always wanted to visit. in 1988 spent a month in New Zealand somewhere I have always loved. Good wishes from Robert…….ps enjoy your pasties. I had to make 6 last week for friends.

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