The Ultimate Cheese & Onion Pasty
Updated: Feb 20
OK, before the culinary mafia start bombarding me on my spelling of pasty and that it should be pastie, it's a geographical thing and I'm from Yorkshire, that makes it a pasty. And it's pronounced "Pasti", like pasta with an "i" instead of a "a". End of conversation.
OK with that out of the way, it is pretty difficult to make an inedible Cheese & Onion Pasty, but it is possible to make a good one and even more possible to make a frickin awesome one. Guess which recipe this is?
For any readers who grew up in the UK, the most famous national baked goods chain in the UK is Gregg's the bakers (Formerly called Thurstons in Yorkshire), they are pretty much the Pasty kings and do a full range with seasonal limited editions. It's fair to say that Gregg's is to me what Mecca is to a Muslim and what a theme park is to a 10 year old, it's my spiritual happy place.
About 15 years ago, Gregg's had hands down the best Cheese & Onion pasty that money could buy. Bar none. That was until what I can only guess was automation or cost-cutting or some other corporate productivity project. Did you know that British Airways once saved $40,000 a year by cutting the olives from 2 to 1 in the Gin & Tonics on it's flights? Factoid! (although I've also heard it was an olive from the salad on American Airlines). Well in line with that kind of unacceptable behavior, Gregg's changed their recipe for their iconic Cheese & Onion Pasty. Unfortunately it was massively inferior to the original but to this day they have never returned to the original, the ultimate.
Well luckily for you dear reader, I managed to reproduce the original recipe many years ago and share it now for all to behold (OK, I'll dial down the dramatics). This really is a little cracker and when eaten still warm from the oven (How Gregg's sell most of their baked goods), it is as comforting as a fresh set of crisp white sheets on a duck down duvet straight after a long hot bath. And that is comfortable.
There are only four main ingredients in this recipe if you discount the seasonings but they come together in a symphony of flavours if you use the right quantities of each of them in the mix. There's a few variables at play here so pick your cheese and refine the recipe around the cheese as the common denominator and you'll get something that will make you smile even on the darkest days.
Ingredients - Makes 4 Pastys
200g Mature Cheddar Cheese - You're looking for that sharp really mature cheese, you can't go too strong here, but you can go too mild. At least 6 months matured but better with 24 months. Look for "Extra Mature" or "Vintage" on the pack.
2 large potatoes
1 Large White Onion
1 roll of shop bought Puff Pastry
Knob of Butter,
Splash of Milk - Preferably full fat, cream for a little extra luxury
White pepper and salt for seasoning. (any pepper will do if you don't have white)
A little oil for frying the onion
1 Egg for egg washing the pastry
Roll out your fully defrosted pastry and cut into 4 equal size pieces (doesn't matter what shape as long as they're symmetrical e.g. can be folded in half) then set aside - If you really want to make your own puff pastry, have at it, frankly my life is too short and I'll never make it as well as "The Machines".
Make some mash! - Peel, chop and boil your potatoes, drain, add a knob of butter and a splash of milk and mash together until there are no lumps.
While your potatoes are boiling, chop your onion and sweat it down in a frying pan on a low heat with a knob of butter and a splash of oil.. You're looking for translucent and golden, if they start to brown, the pan is too hot, turn it down and give them a stir.
Grate your cheese and stir half the cheese and the onion into the mash until fully incorporated
You should be left with a loose-ish mash that's not quite a puree, it should hold on a spoon upside down but only just. If it's too dry, add a splash of milk to loosen it up slightly (carefully).
Season the mixture with salt and pepper, tasting as you go until you get the seasoning adjusted to your taste.
Beat the egg and brush egg around the edges of your pastry. About 1cm / 1/2 inch around. This is the glue that will hold it together when you fold it over.
By now, the mixture will have cooled a little, stir in the rest of the cheese. The first round of cheese will now have melted and is essentially going to give the strong cheese flavour. The second round of cheese is so for texture, this will only melt in the oven so will go nice and oozy and stringy to give the full effect. Now your mixture should be slightly firmer than normal mash and will be easy to spoon into the pastry.
Spoon the cheese mash filling onto one half of your pastry piece, inside the egg wash line so that when you fold it over, the edge is all pastry sealed with egg, then the filling will stay inside.
Fold over the pastry and crimp the edge softly with a fork around the 3 sealed sides. You should now have a finished pasty.
Place onto a baking tray either on grease proof / baking paper or oil the tin lightly before the pastys go into it
Brush the remaining egg over the pastry to give a nice golden finish.
Pierce the top of the pasty with a sharp knife, just a small cut for the steam to escape.
Bake in a hot oven at around 180C / 350f for around 20-30 minutes or until risen and golden brown.
Leave to rest on a wire rack (If you have one) and eat at least one whilst still warm.
If you've pulled it off, you should now have a golden yellow soft and flaky pasty filled with oozing cheese and onion sauce (An untrained eye shouldn't be able to detect the potato), salty and sour with the mature cheese and sweet and savoury with the sweated onion. The perfect marriage of cheese, onion and buttery pastry and the ultimate comfort food.
Tips & Tricks
If you don't want to make individual pasties, you can use exactly the same recipe to make a cheese and onion pie, still a crowd pleaser. Please please please remember though, a pie has a bottom crust, none of this fancy pastry only on top nonsense, that is not a pie!
I'm repeating myself but the cheese is everything. If you'r making it for a meal, it's worth spending a little more as there'll be no meat.
Acceptable accompaniments are Baked Beans, chips and tomato sauce. Don't try and fancy it up and make it something it isn't., This is simple hearty food.
Bacon - As always, bacon, just bacon
If you do go down the pie route rather than individual pastys, shortcrust pastry works well and is more crumbly and, well, short.
The filling to pastry ratio is important, too tight on the filling and it just tastes dry, too much and the thing will be too rich.
Don't try and make it a meat cheese combo like minced beef or sausage meat, I've tried it and it's just too rich, and then seem a lot of effort for something not great.
Do let it rest a little before eating,, the fillip will be like volcanic magma out of the oven and you don't want that stuck to the roof of your mouth.,
How long to cook the pasty for is debatable. I personally like my pastry slightly under so it's soft and chewy more than crispy but that's personal taste. the full half hour will make it crispier. Don't let it go past golden yellow, overcooked puff pastry is just awful.
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