While it’s not definitively clear when meat turnovers were invented, meat pies have been referenced in a 13th century royal charter by England’s King Henry III and 14th century French cookbooks, which referred to the encompassing dough as paste. This is likely where the word “pasty” came from.
In earliest versions, a stiffer version of the pastry dough itself served as a baking container for the meat filling. These later evolved into the popular “standing pies” which were eaten into the 19th century. The dough in these weren’t usually eaten because they were too tough. This standing pie dough was also called a “coffin”.
As the pasty moved through the centuries, it became a go-to street food or fast food of days of yore. In English versions, potatoes, carrots and other ingredients joined meat in the pie so they ate like a full meal. The most well-known of these is the “Cornish Pasty” a popular, one-handed food for miners in Cornwall. As England expanded her colonial reach, outposts of the empire adopted the pasty and made it their own. The best example of this is the popular Jamaican Beef Patty.
Puff pastry cut into 5 inch squares to total 8 (2 10”x 15” sheets), keep chilled or 1 14 oz package large inch empanada dough discs such as Goya or follow our recipe for pie dough below.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 small carrot, peeled, diced small
- ½ stalk celery, minced
- ½ pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons Madeira, port or sherry (optional)
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, diced small
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 eggs beaten well with 1 tablespoon water
1. Melt butter in large fry pan over medium heat and add onion, carrots and celery. Fry until onions are softened, about 6 to 7 minutes.
2. Stir in the ground beef, breaking apart the chunks with a wooden spoon and fry until browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the allspice and nutmeg and cook for 1 minute. Mix in the tomato paste and stir well, cooking for 1 more minute.
3. Add the Madeira, port or sherry, and cook for 1 minute while mixing. Add the Worcestershire sauce and ½ cup water.
4. Add the thyme sprig and potatoes and lower heat to medium-low. Cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
5. Assemble the pasties, Method 1: Hold a puff pastry square like a diamond. Lightly roll with a rolling pin to thin slightly. Brush all edges with egg wash. Place roughly 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons meat mixture on one side. Use as much filing as will fit comfortable a puff pastry square. Fold the unfilled side up and over the meat mixture to make a triangle shaped turnover. Press down with a fork along the edges to make a seal. The egg wash will help. Repeat until all the pastry squares are filled.
6. Method 2: Using empanada disc, use a rolling pin to roll out the discs so they are about 25% larger all around. Fill as you would a puff pastry diamond—but these will be half-moon shaped. Place roughly 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons meat mixture on one side of the disc. Fold the side without filling up and over the meat mixture to make a half-moon shaped turnover. Press down with a fork along the edges to make a seal. The egg wash will help. Repeat until all the discs are filled.
7. Method 3: Line a greased cupcake tin with the empanada discs and gently press into place. Fill each tin ¾-full with the meat mixture. Gently fold over the overhanding dough. Use a 3-inch round pastry cutter to cut circles out of another empanada dough disc. Brush one side with egg wash and gently press onto the top of the filled cupcake tin.
8. Method 4: Roll one recipe pie crust (below) into to a rectangle of 10 inches wide by 15 inches long. Cut into eight squares. Brush all the edges with egg wash. Hold the square like a diamond and place roughly 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons meat mixture on one side. Fold the side without filling up and over the meat mixture to make a triangle shaped turnover. Press down with a fork along the edges to make a seal. The egg wash will help. Repeat until all the pastry squares are filled.
9. Prick each finished pasty with a fork and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill again for 15 minutes.
10. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each pasty with egg wash and bake the pastries for 15 to 30 minutes or until the crust is risen and golden brown. Serve hot.
Flaky Pie Crust
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick very cold butter or vegan butter, cut into small cubes
Ice water as needed
1. Place flour and salt in a food processor and add the butter. Pulse lightly until you have a crumbly mixture. Alternatively, you may do this in a bowl using a pastry cutter or a sturdy fork to break up the butter in the flour and achieve a crumbly consistency.
2. Add ice water in small amounts (not more than 2 tablespoons at a time) until the dough just comes together without being dry.
3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least ½ hour before using.