Cornish Recipes, Ancient and Modern, Edith Martin, Truro, 1929

Back in 1929 the Cornwall WI published a book that’s still sought after today among pasty-lovers worldwide. A simple booklet, produced by Edith Martin, called “Cornish Recipes, Ancient and Modern” gathered together the Cornwall WI members’ pasty recipes, as well as many other local and family recipes for pasties, chutneys and more. If you can find a copy of this original book today it can cost you £30-50 for a simple booklet!  I have seen copies come up for sale on Amazon, it’s a real collector’s piece.

Edith Martin was living at Tregavethan, Truro when this WI cooking booklet was first published in April 1929.  Since the first edition, there have been many later editions that still seem to be around, including: 5th, 1930; 8th, 1931; 17th, 1955; 19th, 1947; 21st, 1962, 23rd, 1967.  The 1930 was revised and enlarged and had a Foreword by Arthur Quiller-Couch, who contributes his own recipes for pickled damson and claret (or cider) cup – he suggests you serve this with the ham recipe in the book.

One piece of Cornish pasty lore that’s often overlooked is that Edith said in her book that each member of the family has his or her initials marked into the crust at one corner.  She said “The true Cornish way to eat a pasty is to hold it in the hand, and begin to bite it from the opposite end to the initial, so that, should any of it be uneaten, it may be consumed later by its rightful owner and woe betide anyone who takes another person’s ‘corner'”

An old rhyme in Cornwall goes as follows:

Pastry rolled out like a plate
Piled with turmut, tates, and mate
Doubled up and baked like fate
That’s a Cornish pasty.

Turmut is turnip, tates are potatoes and mate is meat.

There’s a lot of folklore around the Cornish pasty, they even say  that the Devil would never dare to cross the River Tamar from Devon into Cornwall for fear of being put into a pasty – he said “they might take a fancy to a devilly pie”.

Recipes included in this old cookery book have some interesting names: Poluglot, Shenagrum, Likky Eggy’ot, Star-gazey, Figgy’oben Pie, Saffron Cake, Kiddley Broth, North Cornish Biscuits, Cornish Splits, Cornish Fairings, Fuggan, Grovey Cake, Figgie Hobbin, Dippy, Cornish Pasty, Scrowled Pilchards, Lan’Sen (Lauceston) Pie, Muggety Pie, Gerty Meat Puddings, Gilliflower Wine, Metheglin, Negus, Potato Jowdle, Cornish Barm, etc.

What makes a Cornish Pasty so distinguished is that the filling starts raw and cooks in its own juices. Making a Cornish Pasty requires no special equipment or skills, you simply place the raw ingredients (with seasoning) into the pastry and, by magic, it cooks in its own juices and tastes wonderful!

This book was on my To Do list and I’ve got a copy (the 1965 edition) and I thought I’d share the love and publish just one recipe from this great book that’s become a staple on the bookshelves of pasty lovers.

In her Cornish pasty recipe book Edith Martin said

“The pasties are cut out in rounds, filled and folded over to form a semi-circle (a turn-over, in fact), the edges damped and pressed down with the fingers to make a pattern. A slit is made in the centre and they are baked in a quick oven. “

This section covers many different pasties, but using the same basic pasty recipe:


Any good pastry may be used, but it should not be too flaky nor too rich. A
very useful pastry is:

  • One pound flour
  • 1/2 lb. lard and suet
  • 1/2 teaspoonful salt
  • Mix with water.

When pastry is made, roll out about 1/4 inch thick, and cut into rounds with
a plate to the size desired.

Lay the rounds on the pastry board with half of the round over the
rolling-pin and put in the fillings, damp the edges lightly and fold over
into semi-circle.

Shape the pasty nicely and “crimp” the extreme edges where
it is joined between the finger and thumb. Cut a split in the centre of the
pasty, lay on a baking sheet and bake in a quick oven, so that it keeps its

Cornish Pasty

Cornish Pasty

The pasty recipes in Edith’s book include: Apple Pasty, Broccoli Pasty, Chicken Pasty, Date Pasty, Eggy Pasty, Herby Pasty, Jam Pasty, Mackerel Pasty, Meat and Potato Pasty, Parsley Pasty, Pork Pasty, Rabbitty Pasty, Rice Pasty, Sour Sauce Pasty, Star Gazing Pasty, Turnip Pasty and Windy Pasty.

remwbay cornish pasty

This post is dedicated to my father, who loved pasties so much he would eat two EVERY day. RIP.

image ©, david johnson.

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