The nights are drawing in and for midweek fixtures in particular I have noticed the returning requirement to layer up as Scotland settles into autumn. The change on the seasons also makes finding fixtures that little bit harder as most non league teams aren’t equipped with floodlights and so it’s a case of taking my opportunities when the time and my calendar allows me too, which brings us to Lesmahagow.
One of the joys of following non-league football is that there is always an interesting ground or two along the way. Lesmahagow’s Craighead Park is perhaps one of the oddest but also brilliant wee grounds I’ve visited. Hidden just off a main road the only real sign you’ll have that some football might be going on is the sight of some cars seemingly abandoned on some grass just off the main road. Once parked up you begin your descent following a winding path until the gap behind the trees opens up to the park below. Your journey to the terraces is not complete though as you then navigate your way down further via the rustic staircase or down the grass banks that sweep towards the pitch below. At the near side end there is the clubhouse, changing rooms and pie hut. The far side has a relatively large by junior standards enclosure, with high stepped terracing either side of it. The other side sees the dugouts and some gentler terracing along with a grass bank, and sort of car park, where you can watch the game from too. Perhaps the most intriguing feature is the far away end, a huge grass bank that disappears into the trees behind it, if you continued to walk up and past it who knows where it will take you.
There is a certain enchanted whimsy to Craighead Park that I think every football fan should experience but I have to encourage you to beware of those midges. I’m still sporting bite marks nearly two weeks later! The question now though is, should you also experience the Lesmahagow pie? Well, there’s only one way to find out, and so without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!
Where: Craighead Park: Lesmahagow 3-1 Petershill, Sectional League Cup Semi Final
Price: At £1.50 this pastry from the Lesmahagow Snack Shak is priced in line with the most common junior scotch pie price point.
Presentation: This pastry hit me straight from the oven so I was very happy to accept my pie presented on a double layer of medium sized white napkins protecting my porcelain skinned fingertips and palm from the inferno.
Meatiness: This pastry was generously filled with the meat touching nearly all the edges. The texture was quite firm and as a result the meat wasn’t quite as forgiving to the bite staying staunchly in it’s pastry case with not a drop moving until your bite announced it was time. There was a very gentle pepper kick to the meat, perhaps a little too gentle for me, but by no means was it anything bad.
Pastry: The kick off time had caught the pie stall staff off guard so there was a pre-ordering system on the go as the oven worked its magic. I suspect that this in part played into the pastry perhaps being a little soft on the bottom and the delivery speed required to catch up with demand meant it arrived a little crumpled. The pastry could have maybe done with getting that all important few minutes to rest after coming out of the oven just to crisp up a little further. Whilst it was soft it still held very well throughout consumption.
Brown Sauce: HP. After the Easthouses Lily experience is was good to be greeted with some condimental familiarity. It definitely helped to add an extra wee kick to this pastry.
Overall: Generous portion size with solid pastry. Perhaps a couple of cracks of pepper and spice shy for me but brown sauce can be added for that extra punch.
Gravy Factor: A good dollop of gravy.
I’m not done reviewing from Lesmahagow yet though because I now bring to you the first ever BONUS EMPIRE BISCUIT REVIEW!
That’s right there were cake type things on my visit, and so I shunned the usual Snickers or Mars and plumped for an Empire Biscuit. At £1 you got a lot of biscuit for your buck. The shortbread had the right texture so that it was soft and crumbly to the bite (as can be seen by some of the cracks in the picture below) with a thick layer of white icing on top that left you buzzing for hours. On top was a small jelly sweet, this is perfectly acceptable on top of an empire biscuit as is a cherry however I do draw then line at any kind of chocolate button/smarties kind of deal. That’s not right.
The only thing I’d change on this mammoth biscuit would be perhaps the jam content, as a slightly thicker layer in this sweet sandwich would really have smashed it out the park. Give me that over a chocolate bar any day though. More of that please folks!
Right that’s all for this time out. I’m hoping that something can be fitted in this week before I head to Sweden on Friday where I’ll be taking in IFK Gothenburg v IF Elfsborg and hopefully something a bit random too. What the Swedish trip does mean though is that the next edition in my International Soccer Scran Series is fast approaching, and it’s been a while since I have done one of those.
Until next time though, 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 and The Football Pink as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. He currently acts as Heart & Hand Podcast’s resident Iberian football expert. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ and part-time Madrileno with a passion for food and football that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.