Scotch pies are among the country’s top creations, but I prefer mine served stone cold. In this article, I will share my personal reasons for loving this traditional Scottish delicacy and how it connects me to my heritage and culture.
What is a Scotch pie?
A Scotch pie is a small, double-crust meat pie, traditionally filled with minced mutton or lamb, but sometimes beef. It is baked in a round, straight-sided tin, and the top crust is placed lower than the rim to make space for adding accompaniments such as mashed potatoes, baked beans, brown sauce, gravy or an egg. The crust is made of hot water pastry, which gives it a hard and crispy texture. The filling is usually highly spiced with pepper and other ingredients, and sometimes contains onion, oatmeal or suet.
Scotch pies are often sold as a kind of fast food in bakeries, takeaways and outdoor events, especially at football grounds, where they are known as football pies. They can be eaten by hand, without any wrapping, and are typically served hot or warm. However, some people, like me, enjoy them cold, as they are easier to handle and have a more intense flavour.
The history of Scotch pies
Scotch pies are believed to have originated in Scotland and have existed for over 500 years. There is a legend that during the Middle Ages, pies were despised by the Scottish church, as they were considered to be a sumptuous meal, very similar to English pies. However, the Industrial Revolution influenced the growth of the pie’s popularity, as the workers in the cities sought a suitable, sustainable and inexpensive dish.
Mutton was the most accessible and cheap meat at the time, so with a good mix of spices, this dish became very popular. Today, there are countless variations of the pie, and each one has its own recipe, which is sometimes kept a secret, especially within bakeries. There is even a World Championship Scotch Pie Awards, organised by a trade association called Scottish Bakers, where the winner is judged to be the World Champion.
My personal connection to Scotch pies
I have a personal connection to Scotch pies, as they remind me of my childhood and my family. My grandfather was a baker, and he used to make the best Scotch pies in town. He had his own secret recipe, which he never revealed to anyone, not even to my grandmother. He used to bake them fresh every morning, and sometimes he would bring some home for us to enjoy.
I remember how he would cut a small hole in the top crust and fill it with brown sauce, which was his favourite topping. He would then give me a slice and tell me to eat it while it was still hot. I loved the smell and the taste of his pies, but I also loved the stories he would tell me about his life and his work. He was very proud of his pies, and he always said they were the best thing he ever made.
However, as I grew older, I developed a preference for cold Scotch pies. I found them more convenient and satisfying, as I could eat them anytime and anywhere, without needing any utensils or heating. I also liked the contrast between the crunchy crust and the soft filling, and the way the spices would linger on my tongue. I started to buy them from the local bakery, and I would keep them in the fridge for later.
I still love Scotch pies today, and I always have some in my kitchen. They are my comfort food, and they make me feel closer to my grandfather, who passed away a few years ago. He taught me to appreciate the simple things in life, and to be proud of my Scottish heritage and culture. He also taught me that there is no right or wrong way to enjoy a Scotch pie, as long as you enjoy it with love and gratitude.
How to make your own Scotch pies
If you want to make your own Scotch pies, you will need some basic ingredients and equipment. You will need plain flour, lard, water, salt, pepper, minced mutton or lamb, and optionally, onion, oatmeal, suet or other spices. You will also need a round, straight-sided tin, about 8 cm in diameter and 4 cm high, and a rolling pin.
Here are the steps to follow:
- In a large bowl, boil water and melt lard in it.
- Add flour to the mixture and stir until you get a dough. You can add an egg yolk for more colour and texture.
- Leave the dough to cool slightly, but not too much, as it will become hard and unusable.
- In another bowl, knead the meat and the spices, and optionally, onion, oatmeal or suet.
- When the dough has cooled a bit, knead it with your hands, and then roll it out to 4-5 mm thick.
- Cut out circles of dough and line the tin with them, leaving some overhang.
- Fill the tin with the meat mixture, and press it down firmly.
- Cut out smaller circles of dough and cover the filling with them, sealing the edges with water.
- Make a small hole in the centre of the top crust, to allow steam to escape.
- Bake the pies in a preheated oven at 200°C for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
- Let the pies cool slightly, and then remove them from the tin.
- Enjoy them hot or cold, with your favourite toppings.
Scotch pies are among the country’s top creations, and they have a long and rich history. They are also a personal favourite of mine, and I prefer them served stone cold. They are a delicious and versatile dish, that can be enjoyed in many ways. They are also a symbol of my Scottish identity and culture, and a tribute to my grandfather, who taught me to love them.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and maybe learned something new about Scotch pies. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to share them with me. Thank you for reading, and have a great day.