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Issue 12 - Pies and bridies

Scotland Magazine Issue 12
January 2004


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Pies and bridies

Pies and bridies have been an important part of Scottish culture for centuries and the standard has never been higher. Sue Lawrence picks a few favourites

As the shrill drone of the bagpipes settles into a pleasing skirl, the piper enters and a reverent hush falls over the expectant crowd. And as the silver ashet is held aloft behind him, they stride proudly around the room.

With great ceremony, a dram is given to the piper and the salver bearer then the poem, “Tae a Scotch Pie” is recited.

For on that lofty platter is not a pre-Burns Supper haggis, but a hillock of golden-crusted scotch pies.

This is the World Scotch Pie Championships Awards; and rather like the Oscars, there is tension in the air. For not only are there 65 entries in the scotch pie section and 56 in bridies, but an astonishing 123 in “savouries”. And everyone present is hoping their pie has won the Gold.

The championships began three years ago and have grown enormously in popularity. And at the judging shortly before the Awards lunch, I was fortunate enough (some might say) to help judge the “savouries”. Yes, all 123 of them.

Once our judgly huddle had ploughed its way (at first with keen and eager palates) through such delicacies as Sheep & Neep pie with its wonderful peppery topping, Stovie Pie, Lasagne pie - and the overall winner, Chicken Cranberry pie - our palates were more than a little jaded.

The good thing about this competition - brainchild of baker and butcher Alan Stuart of Buckhaven - is that, as the number of entries has risen, so has the standard.

The chances of finding a perfectly crafted pastry case (crisp not hard) containing a substantial meaty filling (totally devoid of gristle or grease, with just enough gravy to moisten) are higher than ever.

Nowadays craft bakers and butchers take this competition so seriously, some spend most of the year fine-tuning their pie recipes.

This I find so encouraging not only for the sake of our culinary heritage (we Scots have eaten scotch pies for centuries - originally mutton, now usually beef) but also to dispel that old chestnut about the poor Scots diet.

It is not poor because of top-quality, handcrafted pies; it is poor because of the ubiquity of refined, processed foods, laden with additives and preservatives - and the dearth of fresh fruit and vegetables.

A scotch pie, even made with prime ingredients, is not, however, for every day.

But as an occasional treat, it is fare Scots should be proud of.

Whether piped in ceremonially, or eaten at home with a healthy salad, it is worthy of a piper’s tune - but certainly not a lament.

150g / 5 oz Plain flour, sifted
75g / 2oz Fine oatmeal
110g / 4oz Butter, diced
1 Medium egg
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 level tbsp Dijon mustard
55g / 2oz Freshly grated parmesan
750g / 1lb 10 oz Vine-ripened tomatoes,
thickly sliced, patted dry
100 g / 3oz Rocket

1. Briefly process the flour, oatmeal and butter in a food processor then add the egg and about 2 tsp oil - enough to bind. Wrap in clingfilm, chill briefly. Roll out to fit a shallow 28cm / 11” tart tin, prick the base, chill well.

2. Spread the mustard evenly over the base then top with the cheese. Lay the tomatoes on top in concentric, tight, overlapping circles, so
they sit up proud. Season well with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes at 200C /400F / Gas 6 then switch off the oven.

3. Place 75 g rocket in a processor or blender with 5 - 6 tbsp oil, process until you have a thick but pourable purée. Drizzle this over the
tomatoes, return to the oven for 15 minutes. Remove, cool for 15 - 20 minutes.

4. Just before serving, season remaining rocket with salt, pepper and a little oil. Pile into the middle of the tart.

200g /7 oz Plain flour, sifted
25g /1oz Fine oatmeal or polenta
125g /4oz Butter, diced
1 Large egg
1 Tsp Olive oil
1 Small onion, peeled, chopped
1 Medium potato, peeled, diced
25g/1oz Butter
400g/14oz Undyed smoked haddock fillets
300 ml/10 fl oz Full-fat milk
3 Medium free-range eggs
2 Tbsp Chopped parsley or lovage

1. For the pastry, place the flour, oatmeal or polenta and butter in a food processor then add the egg and oil, process briefly (or make by hand) then wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour or so.

2. Roll out to fit a buttered 28cm / 11” loose-bottomed flan tin. Prick all over and chill again, fill with foil an baking beans and bake at 190C / 375F / Gas 5 for 15 minutes, remove the foil and beans and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove and cool.

3. Sauté the onion and potato in butter until tender. Poach the fish in the milk for 3 - 4 minutes, then strain over a jug. Beat this reserved liquid with the eggs, herbs and seasoning.

4. Place chunks of the fish into the pastry case. Pour in the liquid, bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

250g/9 oz Strong white flour
75g/3 oz Plain flour
75g/ 3oz Unsalted butter, cubed
75g/3oz White fat, cubed filling
450g /1lb Shoulder or rump beef
75g/3 oz Beef suet, grated
1 Small onion, peeled, finely grated

1. For the pastry, sift the flours and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Add the fats and process until incorporated. Add just enough cold water (2 - 3 tbsp) to bind to a stiff dough. Gather in your hands, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least one hour.

2. For the filling, roughly chop the beef - I use the pulse button on my food processor. Alternately, mince very coarsely. Mix together the beef, suet, onion and plenty of salt and pepper. The mixture should be fairly stiff.

3. Divide the pastry into four and roll each piece into an oval. Divide the filling into four and spoon onto one half of each pastry oval, leaving a border all round.

4. Dampen the edges and fold the top half of the pastry of the filing to enclose it. Trim the edges into a neat horseshoe shape (not a half-moon: that is the Cornish pasty.) Now dunt and nick - by pressing down the edges to seal and crimping all around to give a nicely finished look. Using a sharp knife, prick a small hole (for steam to escape) in the top of each bridie. Place on a lightly buttered baking tray and chill for an hour or so.

5. Bake in a preheated oven (200C / 400F / Gas 6) for 35 - 40 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.