International Soccer Scran Special: Benfica

Posted on

So this is new.

Come one, come all to the first of a special, and most likely infrequent, series focusing on matchday scran across the globe, or more pertinently at the games I’ve attended during my travels. I’d thought about this a lot and in some respects this seems the perfect subject matter (outside of pie of course) for me. It entails three things I love wrapped up in one glorious experience: travel, food and football. I was still on the fence up until about a week ago as to whether to follow this path after all it would be a total deviation from the world of pie that has treated me so well until now as evidenced by my invite to judge Scottish Baker of the Year next month more of which will be covered in the next pie blog. However as much as I love a good pie it’s important for me to continue the evolution of this site, to have regular content and find new ways to hopefully one day make a penny or two from it.

I haven’t made this decision alone either, I went to you, my readers and supporters to see what kind of appetite there was for this new arm of the MFP Empire and it was the vast majority who wanted to see what I could come up with outside my comfort zone of pastry, meat and gravy. So here it is, the first edition, from the Portuguese capital Lisbon and one of European football’s oft romanticised clubs, SL Benfica.

Before starting it’s pertinent for me to highlight that I’ve not planned this out in any great depth so as always with anything new this first effort will be more about finding my feet in this format. But without much further ado let’s get elbow deep in a world of Bifanas, Cachorros, and questionable beer.

IMG_20180204_123536_042.jpg

Location

The new(ish) Estadio da Luz in Lisbon has been Benfica’s home since 2003 and can be found towards the north of the city surprisingly close to their main rivals Sporting Club (Sporting Lisbon). We had come from their rivals home to get to the game and I’m pleased to report there is a plethora of bus and metro options. If you like a walk, the walk to the city centre is about an hour and 15 minutes and surprisingly, for a city that seems to have been built on a never-ending up slope irrespective of what angle you come at it from, has almost zero hills for you to climb. It’s fair to say that from the outside the stadium is somewhat underwhelming, a bare structure of grey and red but once inside the party really begins.

Let’s get the obvious out the way, it is basically a Portuguese Emirates in both colour and shape but it’s at this point the similarities end. Whilst Arsenal’s home is dubbed The Library and often mocked for it’s almost haunted feel, Estadio da Luz is a hive of noise and colour even for a fairly run of the mill game against a middle table side like Rio Ave. The Ultras are split in two opposite corners of the ground and as often the case in Europe generate the majority of the noise. The fans are typically Iberian, delighted when a goal is scored but are equally prone to revelry when one of their players is fouled and the referee has the audacity to not immediately send off the culprit.

Before moving onto the food there’s one part of the matchday experience that, as far as I am aware, is totally unique to Benfica, and that is the appearance of Aguia the Eagle. A club mascot that about 10 minutes before kick off descends from the stands and circles the pitch (to his own sing-a-long-able with words on the big screen theme tune) before perching himself on the centre circle. It’s kind of mental but kind of great at the same time. I’m sure the novelty would wear off after a while if you regularly went to the game but when planning your visit you must ensure to give yourself enough time to get in the ground for this spectacle.

Eating Outside the Ground

Estadio de Luz is located right next to the large Colombo Shopping Centre which has a wide range of easily recognisable restaurants. There are also very few bars in the surrounding area so finding an interesting pre-match eating experience requires heading closer to the ground.

As you walk towards the stadium you are initially greeted with a swathe of brightly coloured (predominantly red) merchandise stalls selling everything from the traditional scarves and pins to the slightly more unusual cuddly toys and dog coats all proudly displaying the Benfica club crest. It’s a worrying moment when you’ve worked up a hunger and still no scran is in sight but make your way through these and you start to experience the sights and smells of a pre-match feed. In a unsurprisng revelation I research my food before going on holiday and I already knew what I wanted so I was delighted to see that “Bifana” was on the menu and was only 2,50€. What a bargain! But what is it?

IMG_20180204_123006_123.jpg

It’s bloody awesome, that’s what it is. Pork slapped (and I literally mean slapped) between a bread roll and accompanied traditionally with either mustard, mayo or when feeling fancy some peri peri sauce. It truly is glorious but let’s break it down a bit. A pork cutlet marinated in a ever changing concoction usually involving at least some vinegar, paprika, peppercorns and garlic, bashed within an inch of its life so that as much of the surface area as possible is kissed by the flat top. It then goes in a bread roll, but don’t overlook this roll. it is wonderfully crisp and flaky on the outside but then super soft within allowing the bread to soak up all the juices without turning into a runny mess in your hand. I went rogue and topped my Bifana with mayo and peri peri sauce and that mixture with the pork and bread is what that convoluted phrase foodgasm was made for. The fact that I could wash it down with a full size glass of Super Bock really made this one of my favourite things I think I’ve ever eaten. Although it’s worth noting that the “Portuguese Bifana” from the BDO Cafe near Mercado de Ribeira may have topped it a couple of days later by adding a fried egg and bacon to the mix. Either way Bifana’s are right good.

Eating Inside the Ground

Eating in the ground was a very similar experience to that you would experience at any top level football stadium, everything is that bit more expensive and not quite as good. Where my Bifana was a mere 2,50€ my Cachorro was roughly double the price.

IMG_20180204_123252_322.jpg

This wasn’t my first Cahorro. A few years ago I was one of the unfortunate few to have put my faith in Scotland’s ability to not blow it and had booked for what was shaping up to be a must win trip to Faro to see Scotland play Gibraltar. Alas Ireland somehow beat Germany and Lewandowski prodded home a Polish equaliser ar Hampden to end our hopes. The trip turned into a reason to sesh and it’s funny how even under that drunken haze the memories of the Cachorro I had then came rushing back to me as my bit into my present day hot dog with crisps. And a hot dog with crisps is exactly what this is. A substantial sized scran no doubt but the addition of the salty potato chipsticks contrived to make this one of the driest things you can eat. It wasn’t bad, and the option to add ketchup and mustard certainly helps to moisten things up a bit but compared to the Bifana I had just annihilated outside it paled in comparison. With it being rather dry your natural instinct is to grasp for some libations and I can safely say that the Portuguese no alcohol beer is fairly rotten. Think of a bottled eggy pint and you’re getting close. I have no doubt that when suitably inebriated a Cachorro hits the spot but if you’re asking for me to choose then the Bifana wins hands, arms, feet and legs down. Just writing about it has got me looking out some recipe recommendations.

Benfica Soccer Scran Top Tips

  • Eat outside and get elbow deep in a Bifana
  • I don’t mind non-alcoholic beer but this stuff was rotten. Grab a Coke.
  • Get there early enough to see the eagle
  • Seriously, eat a Bifana!

This turned into a food review/matchday experience hybrid by the end there but I’d love to hear your feedback. I have a Madrid version in the works covering my three months living in Spain’s capital and I also have a new non-football based pie review to write-up so hopefully the content will keep coming.

Hope you enjoyed this but it wouldn’t be Meat FIilled Pastries if I didn’t sign off in the standard manner…so until next time, go forth and eat pie (or Bifana!).

Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.

Advertisements

Pie 128: The Rossvale Pie

Posted on

They say there is nothing quite like the magic of the cup and in many respects that is true. In junior football at least, a great cup run can have a galvanising spirit not only on the club but the surrounding community too, with crowds gradually swelling as the rounds progress. For the supporter there are a few reasons that make cup football just that little bit special and it continues to baffle me that in the Premier League managers and owners seem happy with a 12th place finish and spending the last few weeks of the season mindlessly plodding along in the hope that fundamentally achieving nothing amounts to something.

The first reason, is the chance of something a bit different. There’s an old adage that familiarity brings contempt and in Scottish senior football in particular, where most teams play each other a minimum of 4 time a season, the change of drawing anyone outside of your league adds a certain level of excitement. In junior football, where the leagues are regionalised, there is no other competition other than the Scottish Junior Cup that could see teams traverse the country in the pursuit of glory from Burghead to Girvan and everywhere in between.

This brings us to reason number two, the away day. Now for some fans the cup draw should bring an endless run of home fixtures against teams they could easily dispatch. That for me is the ultimate disappointment and as far as the cup goes I’d take a 4 hour coach ride north over a walk round the corner on Scottish Cup day, new ground, new places and of course, new pies.

Pollok’s away tie to Rossvale was somewhere in between, a fairly regularly drawn foe from a lower division that was just a short 15 minutes’ drive from my Southside home. Luckily for me though, I hadn’t yet sampled a pie and so with gusto to Springburn I headed.

So without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

Where: Petershill Park, Scottish Junior Cup 4th Round

20180212_131428-1.jpg

Price: A second consecutive junior scotch pie at just one pound. Bargain.

Presentation: So I’m going to do a bit of assumption making here. When I arrived at Petershill Park I was interested to observe a fairly frustrated looking Burger Van vendor at the bottom of the quite substantial hill the pitch sits on. On entry to the ground it became apparent that nobody was holding a Bovril, or soup, or even worse a pie. 15 minutes later and the polystyrene cups and what looked like bags of pick’n’mix started to appear. Knowing that this could be my chance I headed over to a now open kiosk within the ground where two woman were bringing in crates of pies. Why’s this story significant? Because when you were served your pastry it came, not in a tin foil case or adorned with a white napkin but instead in a small white paper poke. I suspect some quick thinking had occurred and if so kudos has to be given in resolving the issue so quickly.

20180212_131404.jpg

Meatiness: Sometimes you can wax lyrically about the filling of a pie, other times you have to accept what you have been given is a perfectly good and tasty meat filled pastry product. The texture of the mince, spot on. The pepper kick, gentle and lingering. The grease, enough to be moist without a fatty flow creeping down your palm. This was not ground breaking but it was everything a scotch pie should be.

Pastry: Crisp and well baked throughout, sturdy enough to hold the filling during each bite. There was a golden tinge along the top edges and although the top was a little loose this in some way helped to cool the pie on its removal from the bag. Solid job.

20180212_131500.jpg

Brown Sauce: A wee sachet of the same brown sauce that I get in the work, completely irrelevant but entirely truthful factoid there for you.

Overall: Everything you’d expect from a scotch pie, meaty, little peppery and didn’t fall apart at the seams. I am however left with but one question as to whether the pie came from McGhee’s since the well-known Glasgow bakery is one of Rossvale’s principle sponsors.

Gravy Factor: Would go well with chips and beans.

A solid effort from Rossvale, and an example of how keeping a scotch pie simple can sometimes be the best thing. In an effort to expand my repertoire my next offering will be a Portuguese Football Scran Special focusing on the match day treats consumed during my trip to Lisbon where I took in Benfica v Rio Ave. I put it to you whether this was something that you were interested in and the unanimous feedback from Instagram and a strong favourable rating on Twitter means that this will be the first time I have written about non pie things on this site.

However until then, go forth and eat pie.

Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.

Pie 127: The Scotstoun Steak “Surprise” Pie

Posted on Updated on

Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if my pursuit of pastry goes a little too far. Three years ago I found myself sitting on a sofa talking to a former Miss Scotland and the artist formerly known as DJ Romeo about how I was darting about the country eating pies and reviewing them. Two things struck me immediately when I re-watched that mental few minutes. One, I had more hair. Two, the question about whether or not I had eaten all the pies was fairer than I was willing to admit at that time. It had been the culmination of a week where I’d also featured on websites and radio stations and afterwards I had found myself sitting in my car thinking, sometimes, just sometimes, my life is a little bit strange.

I found myself questioning the sanity of my pie pursuit once again last week as I looked out on the arctic tundra masquerading as the pitch at Scotstoun Stadium. I had left on the Sunday morning via bus and then train(s) more in hope than anticipation that the game would be on, regularly checking social media channels for the inevitable. I was therefore amazed that I had got to the point where I had settled down with a pie and a pint in my hand ready for some hard hitting rugby/ice hockey action. Alas though, that inevitable did come, as no sooner had I taken my last bite the stadium tannoy declared the game off. You would think I would be annoyed but I wasn’t, it had got me out the house, given me a story to tell, and of course, most importantly, gave me a new pie review. The fact that this is the conclusion reached tells us all that when it comes to pie, you can never go too far.

So with that in mind and without, much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

Where: Scotstoun Stadium, Womens Rugby International Scotland A-A Spain

IMG_20180121_134852_311.jpg

Price: Four smackeroonis (£4 for the unintiated)! Oooft, that is indeed a pricey pastry.

Presentation: This was a large pastry in a tin foil case with an equally ample napkin. It’s worth noting here taking a picture of a pie under the cover of a stand against a bright white snowy background is blinking difficult!

20180121_125326.jpg

Meatiness: I dubbed this a Steak Surprise Pie as when making my purchase I had simply asked for steak but as I munched my way through it the texture suggested something else was lurking within. My first thought was mushroom or potato as the texture was soft and forgiving on the bite but the taste just didn’t match up. I then wondered if I’d happened across some really soft pieces of fat but it’s taste was too different from the generous steaky chunks surrounding them. I had inspected the filling thoroughly but to be honest, it wasn’t until somebody on Twitter asked if I had gone for the “Steak & Sausage” pie did everything fall into place. Now does that mean that the sausage wasn’t good? Not at all, in fact it added an extra meaty layer that had me nodding my head in pleasure on more than one occasion. The gravy was also of the right consistency to provide the necessary ooze without risk of spillage. This pie was £4 but I was starting to understand why.

20180121_125557.jpg

Pastry: The pastry was where I think there was some space for improvement. Not in the nature of the bake which was solid. Golden and crisp without any hint of this sticking to the tin foil case but for the amount of pastry on the crimp. One of the great pleasures of eating a pie is that glorious first bite, where pastry and meat come together in a hopefully glorious unison of savouriness. On this pie, my first bite was all pastry and I had to pick some of it off before getting to the good stuff. It’s a minor complaint on a pretty tasty pie but it’s one worth mentioning.

Brown Sauce: Luxury Pie here so no brown sauce, and it was certainly not needed.

Overall: Yes it was £4 but it was bloody tasty. A bit of better advertising on what was in it would have been nice and bringing in the crimp a few millimetres would have enhanced that all important first bite experience but that’s a minor complaint on a very tasty pastry.

Gravy Factor: Luxury Gravy. Expensive but sometimes you have to treat yourself.

I think that was my first rugby pie which is a bit of a surprise as I’m known to land at a rugby ground fairly often. Next up will be a return to the Scottish Junior football scene with Rossvale, who are sponsored by one of Scotland’s biggest bakers, McGhee’s, so no pressure lads.

But until then, go forth and eat pie!

Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.

 

 

 

 

Pie 126: The Clydebank Pie

Posted on Updated on

You know who doesn’t get enough credit?

Lower League pie stall workers.

Welcome to another edition of Meat Filled Pastries as we get back on more familiar ground with a Scotch Pie from Clydebank FC, more of that in a moment, but first an open declaration of thanks to those men, woman and children who forego any desire to take up a hobby or actually watch a game of football and instead spend their Saturday afternoons helping to feed a few hundred or so hungry supporters come rain or shine.

Often these individuals are friends and family of club staff, roped in one day as a favour but can still be found standing there twenty years later, as integral to the fabric of a football club as the often more heralded kit men and groundskeepers. Without these soldiers, no tongues would be burnt on a roasting hot Bovril and no pie would be on offer to help soak up the hangover or temper the effect of a few away day beverages.

To say it was wet on the day of my visit would be an understatement. Despite two pairs of socks and an un-ripped pair of shoes my toes had turned to ice and the rain lashed in fits and starts against the hardy few unwilling or unable to fit under the small shelter on the far side of the ground. I was late, and the crowd was large, so on arrival I headed straight to the freight container doubling as a pie stall behind the main clubhouse to get a pie and some heat.

The queue was long and as I stared at the opening where the food and drink were being delivered I was surprised to see just one girl, no more than 16, valiantly dealing with the wet and hungry hoards. She was a whirr of activity juggling pies and teas whilst trying to re-stock a rapidly decreasing sweet and crisp section. Football fans can be brutal in these circumstances, but on this given Saturday, despite the wind and the rain, our heroine was treated with nothing but thanks and support from a group of people who realised they would never want to be the other side of that counter.

Clydebank Pie Lassie, I salute you and all your pie providing peers because without you this near 5 year journey of pie based nonsense may have ceased to continue. Thank you.

With my pie now safely in hand it was time to get down to some serious business, and so without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

Where: Holm Park, Clydebank 0-1 Pollok, West Superleague Premier Division

20180113_134549.jpg

Price: £1. A 12 sided bargain if ever there was one. You could buy 2.7 Clydebank Scotch Pies for the price of one (fairly awful) Queens Park Cheese & Onion Pie.

img_20180113_171957_068.jpg

Presentation: Such was the demand for pies at Holm Park that when it came time for me to be presented with my pastry the white napkins were gone and had been replaced with a sheet of floral kitchen roll wrapped around the pie creating the effect of a meaty pass the parcel. There was only going to be one winner though in this game and that was me!

Meatiness: There was something a bit different about this scotch pie. The meat inside was in the form of a fairly solid block more akin to a burger than the more crumbly nature that ground mince usually provides. I’d also say the taste was more predominant in beef than any combination of the former with lamb or mutton. The block texture did mean the pie was filled very well and although the meat itself tasted both meaty and savoury it didn’t have the gentle pepper kick I so often crave. It was definitely worth eating, just not what I was expecting.

20180113_140156.jpg

Pastry: My intrigue continued with the pastry, golden brown and very crisp but not burnt with almost a biscuit texture to it which did make the pastry come away in small shards as I chewed. It was certainly sturdy enough to hold the meaty goodness within, something that I was thankful for as I juggled the pie and my umbrella between my hands whilst trying to grab a bite.

Brown Sauce: HP. The best kind, although due to the rain far more copious an amount than I would usually aim for.

Overall: This pie did the job of filling the hole that a lack of breakfast provided but I have an inkling that the pie source may not be that of a butcher or baker. That said, in today’s football food climate a quid for a pie is nothing to be sniffed at.

Gravy Factor: Consistently Gravy.

So that’s another review in the books, and speaking of books, I have a genuine ambition to finally nail down something that marries this journey of pie with my adventures in the world of football. I have a couple of concepts down but they need some fine tuning and a heavy dose of planning on my part so we’ll see how that goes but until next time, go forth & eat pie!

Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.

Pie 126: The Queens Park “Cheese & Onion” Pie

Posted on

Welcome back to another edition of Meat Filled Pastries where we’re always on the hunt for some meaty thrills whilst holding back on the spills because a spilled pie leads to a sad guy.

Now unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks we have seen the dawning of a new year and with it the thoughts of new hopes and expectations that it will bring. I’m not one for the phrase “New Year, New Me” philosophy that blights social media for those first few days of January but I do see it as an opportunity to set some goals and try new things.

It’s also the time of year where people declare their body a temple and health boards and charities across the country champion well-meaning campaigns such as “Dry January” and the awfully named “Veganuary”. Now this may perhaps come as a surprise to some but I am quite happy to eat a meal without meat, in fact when you consume the volume of Meat Filled Pastries that I do it is somewhat of a treat. However with that being said I cannot get on board with replacements such as “Facon” and “Tofurky”. I’ve got in to many a debate about this with non-meat eating friends before but for me if you don’t want to eat meat why are you then replacing it with things that look and (supposedly) taste like the things they don’t have any interest in eating? It’s an endless riddle to me. Most vegetarians are sound and rational people. Most vegans however, are in my experience (bar the odd exception), raving lunatics who must burn all of the 150 calories they consume a day telling the world that if you eat meat you deserve to burn in the depths of hell for having the audacity to like the occasional chicken nugget. It’s not my fault you’ve chosen a life of cauliflower “steaks”. I accept that as your life decision so don’t come preaching, and I mean preaching, to me because I don’t agree. All of which, kind of ironically, brings us to today’s pie review; The Queen’s Park Cheese & Onion Pie, a veggie (but not vegan) friendly option at the much debated home of Scottish football Hampden Park.

So without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

Where: Hampden Park, Queen’s Park 2-2 Albion Rovers, Scottish League One

20171230_144856.jpg

Price: A whooping £2.70. For a pie with zero meat in it. Now I’m making an assumption here but I’m guessing that pie prices for Queen’s Park games are dictated by someone other than the club as history has shown that a pie at a Scotland game will cost you exactly the same for a (supposedly) much higher level of football. I’m not even going to begin to claim to the understand the economics behind Queen’s Park playing at Hampden, and for what it’s worth I think they should continue to do so, but £2.70 for a pie definitely needs looking at when compared with their League One peers.

Presentation: The tin foil case of potential doom accompanied by a large white napkin for mopping up at this point the unknown treasures within.

20171230_143900.jpg

Meatiness Cheesy-Onionyness: Sigh. This was fairly rubbish. Always a disappointment in the pie game. Inside this pie was a mushy yellow and white paste that I presume was meant to be rich and cheesy with a strong onion linger in the background oozing as you pull away each bite and where you try to stop a small string of cheese getting stuck in your beard. Positively dreamy.

What actually happened was the appearance of a bland blob that tasted more of uncooked roux and a hint of cheese tainted with a pepper kick so offensively strong that the acrid burn stabbing at the back of my throat resulted me going and having to get a second beverage. On review fairly rubbish seems far too genteel. This was looking to be a bit of a disaster and then there was the pastry…

20171230_144122.jpg

Pastry: I have often talked about the pit falls of the tin foil case. A Sophie’s Choice of a decision for butchers and bakers between the appearance of uniformity and the risk of the pie sticking to the bottom of the case. It’s a risk that often backfires and in this instance the result was no different as half my pie stayed glued to the bottom as I lifted it to take my first bite. The pastry on the top edges was golden and crisp but at the base was as near to raw as I think I’ve ever had at a football game. So raw infact, that I could actually leave a thumbprint in the bottom with the mixture of filling and pastry creating a texture that I’m sure could be used as a Play-doh substitute at a nursery. I can’t think of the last time I thought, “I might not even finish this” but it was really that poor. I am however a trooper, and so I powered through like any good pie muncher should.

Brown Sauce: Regular readers will know that a luxury pie (i.e. a non-Scotch Pie) does not get dotted with some of the brown stuff but given how consumption had gone to this point I thought I’d grab a sachet to try and save it. Sadly, even this most wondrous of condiments couldn’t prevent me from experiencing culinary doom.

Overall: This was not very good. The filling was bland but yet somehow offensive and the pastry was near raw and stuck to the case. If you go to a Queen’s Park game I’d avoid this and stick to your traditional Scotch or Steak. If you’re feeling fancy wire into a Chicken Curry but if you’re a vegetarian I’d just settle for a Mars Bar.

Gravy Factor: Literally better off eating a spoonful of unwatered Bisto.

Well that was disappointing. It’s often said it’s easier to criticise than praise but for me the purpose of this site is to champion the best pies around the grounds and beyond and so when I’m met with something bad it’s a chore to break it down. That said, if I’m not honest and go about proclaiming every pie as the greatest I’ve ever had then I lose all credapie-ility.

Next up is a first review from Clydebank, something I couldn’t quite believe when checking the archives before the game so hopeful we see a return to pie glory. But until next time, go forth and eat pie!

Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.

 

Pie 125: The Greggs Pie

Posted on

Happy New Year from MFP Towers. I hope you all had a smashing time bringing in the bells whether you were out partying or having a quiet one. I hope that 2018 brings you all the joy you can handle and the success that you desire. I spent the bells on the top of a hill watching Reykjavik come alive with fireworks for a genuinely jaw dropping hour or so but now I’m back and it’s time to kick 2018 off with a bang by reviewing the one pie that has ruled the high street for as long as I can remember. It’s time to rate The Greggs’ Scotch Pie.

So without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

Where: Greggs. They have over 1750 locations throughout the UK but mine was purchased on Victoria Road, Glasgow.

20171230_125430.jpg

The Social: Website, Instagram, Twitter.

What’s it all about?: The largest bakery chain in the UK, Greggs is synonymous with providing you an array of pastries, sandwiches and sweet treats to go. However for every glorious Festive Bake there has been a not so glorious Chicken Katsu version has followed. But the big question is, as the UK’s favourite purveyor of pastry, how does their Scotch Pie fare?

What was on my plate: No plates at Greggs, instead it comes in a paper bag, with this particular bag still sporting the festive colours of red and white. Something which I had never considered until now was how odd it was that they never give you a napkin to capture the cascade of crumbs, grease and sugar that many of the bakers snacks cover you in. It’s actually kinda baffling.

20171230_125933.jpg

Price: £1.15. Inflation, rising costs and a little bit of greed may have meant that the cost of a Scotch Pie at Greggs surpassed the £1 mark a long time ago but it is still a relative bargain for a hot (more on that shortly) meal.

Let’s get some eats: Now before we go into the meat of this pie matter I think it’s important to address something that is very much specific to Greggs: the temperature of your pastries. I have purchased the majority of my Greggs in the Greater Glasgow area and over the years I have learned that there are not one, not two but three different temperatures in which your pie can come in:

  • Furnace Hot: This is where your pastry has gone straight from the oven and into the glass display cabinet, sometimes if you are lucky you will see this very action take place among cries of “WATCH YER BACK AGNES I’VE GOT A HOT TRAY HERE!”. Whilst there is no doubt heat can be good pie munchers beware as that first bite will strip the skin from your lips and burn a hole in your soul. No amount of blowing on it will prevent you from escaping this fate. You just have to suck it up and do your best monkey impression as you take your first few tentative bites.
  • Wee Bit of Heat in it: This pastry will be a victim of one of two sets of circumstances. Either the branch of Greggs you visit is outside and the door left open, no doubt letting whatever apocalyptic weather is raging outside in to instantly cool anything that has come from the aforementioned furnace. Or scenario two, where the pastry has been sitting out for a while perhaps as a result of an overbake ahead of the lunch time rush. You will know if your pastry has a “bit of heat in it” as the person behind the counter will touch the pastry with the back of their palm and ask you this eternal poser, “It’s only got a wee heat in it, is that alright?” Even if you think it’s not you say it will be.
  • Staun Cauld: When you get presented with something that you wouldn’t hesitate twice to cool yourself down with on the beach. These pastries feel like they have been taken straight from the heart of a glacier. If a pastry is “staun cauld” there’s a high chance that it’s been sitting there since time began and could be used as a blunt instrument in battle as well as providing a disappointing pastry experience.

My pie had a wee bit of heat in it, which for me is the best for speedy consumption. The first thing I noticed about my pie was the heavy dusting of raw flour on top of the pastry lid which itself had been subjected to some boil out from the meaty contents below adding a darkly shaded puddle to the floury snowfall.

20171230_125944.jpg

The next thing that became apparent was that the pie was overbaked, or to use regional parlance: well fired, particularly on the bottom and on the edges. Whilst this wasn’t blackened it did make for a super crispy and somewhat difficult bite. As I took my first chomp, dabbed with the traditional squirt of brown sauce, I looked forward in anticipation to the taste sensation from one of the UK’s biggest selling pies. The crescendo of expectation soon turned into instant disappointment as this was perhaps one of the most one note pastries I ever did try. No notes of sweet or savoury. No pepper kick to warm the cockles and tickle the taste buds just a fairly banal but perfectly edible block of meat (beef and mutton, although I’m not sure you’d know). To be honest I suspected as much, this after all is one of the most mass produced pies on the market, but it was still disappointing not to have a single flavour peak or trough to pass comment on.

For £1.15 it’s hard to grumble too much but really this should be better.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Easily available
  • I got my favoured temperature profile

Cons

  • Just a bit dull

So a Greggs’ Scotch Pie, not the culinary delight my heart would desire but it won’t be going anywhere any time soon so if you’re in a bind you could do a lot worse than a pie. But then, I like pies. Anyway, next up is a return to the football field and a review of the Queens Park Cheese & Onion Pie.

However, until then, go forth and eat pie!

Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.

Pie 124: The Whitburn “Steak” Pie

Posted on

You know what I’ve always wondered? Why on New Year’s Day do we Scots, especially in the west, go mad for a cheeky steak pie? Well OK, that’s not strictly true. I’ve literally just started wondering this about 20 minutes before sitting down to write this latest Steak Pie review from Whitburn Juniors but it has posed a bit of a puzzle. You see when I think about growing up the correlation between a Steak Pie and New Year doesn’t immediately come to mind. Sneaking up to my Gran’s for the bells before finding a party and then nursing a hangover the next day with a Chicken Chow Mein and The Mighty Ducks trilogy yes. Steak pie, not so much.

The reasons seems to be fairly sparse and prone to speculation. One theory harks back to the good old days when New Year’s Day wasn’t a holiday and so a pie was an easily prepared celebratory treat after a hard day at the (in some cases literal) coalface. There’s also a rather, seems-far-too-hippy-to-be-something-a-Scottish-person-would-have-come-up-with, idea that steak pies are round to signify the cyclical nature of the year. The romanticist in me likes to think a wee Granny somewhere made a banging pie and everyone else just decided it was a good idea. Whatever the reason it’s a tribute to the enduring nature of the steak pie that whilst Christmas Day continues to bring an ever increasing kaleidoscope of culinary adventure the humble steak pie forever remains.

And remain it continues to do so, which brings us to our latest review The Whitburn Steak Pie. So without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

Where: Central Park, Whitburn 4-1 Benburb, Scottish Junior Cup 3rd Round

20171223_151140.jpg

Price: £1.40, which even compared with 2015/16 prices is an absolute bargain in the luxury game day pie market.

Presentation: Much like its scotch pie compatriot from the same venue this was lovingly wrapped in a medium sized white napkin, a true staple of the match day pie presentation scene.

20171223_134803.jpg

Meatiness: When I have a pie I like to type a few notes on my phone. Firstly to help capture my instant reaction but also to help when I finally get round to writing up a review as time has been known to get away from me. On reviewing my notes on this, The Whitburn Steak Pie, I was amused to find one of my instant reactions around its meaty content was, and I quote “generous as fu*k”. It really was, with large chunks of steak, plentiful in nature and of the texture you’d really hope for when buying such a pastry. There was a couple of drawbacks though. After a few bites it became a little over salty, a gradual build of sodium drawing moisture out my mouth quicker than licking a hairdryer ever would, whilst the gravy wasn’t as plentiful as possible (more on that very shortly). That said there was a good volume of steak and whilst salt heavy it was still a tasty bite.

Pastry: It’s safe to say this pastry was a bit leaky. Whilst a perfectionist will bemoan the presence of boil out (a key measure when officially judging a pie) for me sometimes it adds a new and interesting dimension to a pie, which in this instance was certainly the case. Due to the holes a lot of the gravy (as referenced above) had escaped during the cooking process leave chewy little sheets of brown attached to the base. It sounds odd but was actually a nice wee treat and the pastry itself was actuality fairly well baked and held the filling sufficiently.

Brown Sauce: It’s been a while so I’ll let you off but never should you dress a luxury pie with brown sauce. The gravy should be plenty and if it’s not then your pie just isn’t quite right.

Overall: Generous steak, leaky pastry with an interesting gravy jerky type affect caused by the boil out makes this pie an interesting, if slightly, salty addition to the MFP encyclo-pie-dia.

Gravy Factor: Salt “n” Steak.

So that’s another review in the books, I plan to try to get to a game this weekend but I’m also acutely aware that I have a pre New Year’s night out planned that may impede my driving ability so a saunter to Hampden may instead be on the cards. Either way I will return, but until next time, have a happy new year, and of course, go forth and eat pie!

2018 is going to be a goodie!

Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.