Scotch pies

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • For

    6

    pies

Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

Scotch pies are, as the name implies, a Scottish dish. The pies have an annual ‘World Championship Scotch Pie Awards’ dedicated to them and they are also the preferred snack at the half-time interval at Scottish football matches. They therefore also go by the name ‘football pies’.

According to the championship judges, minced beef flank in combination with minced lamb is favoured as a filling, but originally these pies were made with mutton, and some still are to this day. Traditional bakers leave the unbaked hot water crust pastry cases to dry out for 2 to 3 days before adding the meat filling and fresh pastry lid. This makes for a crisper pastry that perfectly retains its shape and therefore doesn’t sink and get a ‘belly’ when it bakes. However, this is troublesome to do for home-made pies and I prefer to finish the pies and rest them overnight in the fridge, ready to bake the next day. It is also perfectly possible to bake them the same day.

In contrast to Pork pies, which have a decorative crimped rim, the lids of these pies need to be tucked neatly inside the pastry casing to create a smooth finish and get the traditional Scotch pie shape. This leaves a space on top of the pie lid that acts like a basin to pour gravy on, or scoop on some mashed potatoes, baked beans, peas or another topping or sauce you fancy. When making a pie like this with game meat or even the traditional mutton, it’s very striking to finish the top with cranberry or blackberry compote. Although technically they are then game pies and no longer Scotch pies, they are an absolute treat and look very pretty with the colourful jam on top and finished with a fresh green bay leaf or sprig of rosemary.

Scotch pies are traditionally not egg washed and are baked to a rather pale golden colour. You are, of course, welcome to egg wash and bake the pie until it has a little more colour. Just check that the core temperature of the pie is more than 75°C (167°F).

Ingredients

For the hot water crust

For the filling

  • 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) minced mutton (for example, from the neck), lamb mince or a combination of minced beef flank and lamb mince or game mince
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground mace
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt

Method

For six 10 cm (4 inch) high, 4 cm (1½ inch) wide springform cake tins, or use a 10 cm (4 inch) diameter pie dolly or a jam jar or glass

Follow the method for the Hot water crust pastry. Divide the pastry into six pieces. Set aside one-third of the pastry from each piece for the lid. Shape the pastry for the casings into discs. Roll out the lids to 12 cm (4 ½ inch) circles and cut a small steam hole in the centre of each.

Mould your pie casings in 10 cm (4 inch) springform tins or around a 10 cm (4 inch) pie dolly or jam jar.

Make the filling by flavouring the meat with the spices and salt, and kneading it well so that all the flavours blend together.

Divide the filling among the pie casings, pushing the meat well into the corners so there are no gaps. Moisten the inside of the rims with milk and attach the lids by placing them on top of the meat, then folding up the sides and squeezing them together and up to make a 1.5-2 cm (⅝-¾ inch) rim. Rest the pies in the fridge for 1 hour (or overnight if you’re planning to serve them the next day).

Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F). Bake the pies for 35-40 minutes until they are golden. You can either serve the pies hot, allow them to cool to eat cold or reheat them another time. These pies can also be frozen, then thawed overnight in the fridge and baked until the filling is piping hot.