The Scotch pie: a national icon

Pie of the Land

‘Scotch Pie’ - the very words conjure up unsavory images of football grounds across the country, where mediocre, gristly pies are served to warm the heaving ranks on cold winters’ days, entirely unpalatable without the requisite cup of Bovril alongside. Right? Well, not necessarily, no.

The Scotch pie – or mutton pie as it was once commonly called – actually seems to have originated in England some 500 years ago, although records are predictably vague. Today the pie is almost synonymous with Scotland, and can be found served hot from the oven in any bakery in any town. Costing little, and eaten without the need for cutlery or plates, this is the food of the everyman.

The method is simple: each pie is an individual serving, made from an outer casing of crisp hot-water pastry (four parts flour to one part fat) that is moulded into shape and left to harden overnight before the filling is added. The lid of the pie is placed about a centimetre lower than the sides to allow for toppings such as baked beans, peas or even mashed potatoes to be added.

Although historically mutton was the meat of choice for the pie filling, creating a use for the tougher, older meat, these days beef is the more common ingredient, despite the re-emergence of mutton in food fashions. The meat is usually highly spiced, and although every baker claims to guard his own secret recipe, a blend of pepper, mace and all-spice would be the standard components.

So revered is the humble pie that the Scotch Pie Club was formed in its honour in 1996, and holds the annual World Scotch Pie Championship to judge the best pie in the country. The 2009 winner of this coveted trophy was Paul Boyle of Boghall Butchers in Bathgate, whose family business has been baking pies since 1982.