Sporting Pies

International Soccer Scran Special: 1. FC Nürnberg

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With the regular football season now officially over, and the World Cup in Russia upon us now seemed as good a time as any to add another chapter to the International Soccer Scran Special Series, a long overdue summary of my trip to Bavaria and in particular the Max Morlock Stadion in Nuremberg, a footballing stop off during a stag weekend that took us to Munich and Augsburg too. In fact the initial plan was to head to the Bavarian Derby between the two aforementioned clubs but an imminent Bayern title party in Swabia coupled with the German fans renowned for selling out grounds meant that tickets were hard to come by and whilst some were acquired there was not enough to facilitate the entire group and so Plan B was formed and a day in Nuremberg awaited us. So without much further ado let’s get elbow deep in a world of pretzels, tiny sausages, beer and some coverage in a local news outlet.

Location

Nuremberg is situated an approximate two hour train journey from central Munich. There is a “slow” train and a “quick” train that takes you to and from Bavaria’s biggest and second biggest cities. Unsurprisingly the “slow” train is a bit cheaper and, even cheaper still if you’re travelling in a large group, with our fare tumbling from around 80 per person to just 15(ish). Although we did eventually get the cheaper fair we hadn’t planned the journey very well and so on the slow train we arrived into Nuremberg’s main station just ten minute’s before kick off. The fates started to turn in a favour though as on exiting the station we were greeted by a thankfully quiet taxi rank and a short 15 minute ride later, which passed a game between the home town teams youth side at the side’s training complex, we had arrived at the Max Morlock Stadion.

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The ground is like many stadia in Germany serviced with a running track with the main stands to the side providing a closer view whilst the oval curves at the end providing views, that whilst a bit further away, are excellent values for money. Having taken the stairs to our seats in the top deck I was intrigued by the view through the plexiglass to an open piece of land behind the stand. Luckily somebody more up on their history than me identifed this as The Nuremberg Rally Grounds, home to a decades worth of Nazi propaganda. The stadium itself used as a hosting ground for the Hitler Youth and Nazi centric sporting competitions. When you think about the many modern stadiums built beside wasteland, industrial estates and shopping centres on the edges of cities and towns this trip to Nuremeberg led to a surprising and unexpected moment of reflection back to very different times.

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Eating Outside the Ground

The Max Morlock Stadion, as previously hinted at, is situated a decent distance away from the main centre of Nuremberg and with very little around it so if you do have a preference for snacking before going to a game then I’d suggest hanging out in the centre where you have your expected mix of Bier Halles and high street restaurants. Beside the main station there is an interesting historical looking (although I suspect very modern) little conclave with some shops, cafes and bars. There’s plenty of options to choose from but I suspect a review of Nuremberg city centre is not what you came for though so let’s get out that taxi and into the ground.

Eating Inside the Ground

Entry into the stadium is via a gated perimeter which, one navigated, presents you with a decent selection of food and beverage options. As this was a stag do let’s start with the important stuff, an item close to every Bavarian’s heart, the beer. Firstly, and this is a strange thing to have to call out, they are alcoholic and can be taken into the stand with you. Served in a rather nifty branded plastic up, emblazoned with the 1. FC Nürnberg crest. A bit of further reasearch showed that this is a fairly common theme at grounds across Germany. I found myself thinking that if it wasn’t a) so fragile and b) be absolutely minging by the time you got it home, it would make a nice souvenir of your trip. I’d love to give you a price per pint but stag do’s aren’t necessarily the place for that kind of detail although if you had to push me I think it was around the £4 mark. Expensive but about average when you are part of a captive audience.

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Your main food options were, also refreshingly traditional, pretzels and sausage. I think it’s fair to say that you’ve not really experienced a pretzel until you’ve been handed a face size Bavarian version of this baked good. There were two varieties that I could see. Plain, dusted unmistakably with salt, and cheese. Naturally, I conspired to try both and whilst each provided that combination of soft white dough and chewy dark brown crust that anyone who has ever had a soft pretzel will know the cheese version provided that extra level of flavour that the plain salt didn’t have. The flavour profile enhanced by those crispy bits that only cheese can provide when it catches on the bottom of the tray. They really are the ideal snack/hangover meal replacement to go with a beer.

Post game and with the beer hunger still rumbling on I made use of another kiosk situated on the perimeter of the stands and had a roll and sausage. Not square, as often found back home in Scotland and neither large and long like the Bratwursts and Bockwursts of your Germanic dreams but a more local speciality known as the Nurnburger Rostbratwurst. Three of them to be precise, tidily stuffed inside a simple white bread bun like a trio of meaty soldiers and (when you actually manage to locate the condiments) topped with ketchup and mustard. Like their much larger wurst brothers these are usually grilled however their differentiation in flavour is the addition of marjoram to the sausage mix. Although the sausage is much smaller, meaning that the casing to meat ratio is drastically increased I enjoyed the more regular pop that these tiny, tasty bangers provide.

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German football is often championed as the crème de la crème in relation to a fans match day experience and with cheap tickets, noisy supporters, proper beer and a wide range of food options it’s easy to see why. It also, like football across the globe, gets covered extensively from the very bottom to the very top. Sometimes the local press will even grab a bunch of drunk Scottish folk in Where’s Wally outfits and ask them what they are doing there. So if your German is half-decent, and you want to see what our man Jambo made of our day then you can do so here.

1. FC Nurnberg Soccer Scran Top Tips

  • Big groups equal discounted travel from Munich, just get your timings right for kick off.
  • Take some paper towels with you so that you can take home a branded plastic cup for free.
  • If you’re sitting in the end nearest the main entrance then make sure to take a look at the Nuremberg Rally Grounds, might as well learn something whilst you’re here.

I had been to Germany a couple of times before this and somehow managed to conspire to not get to a football game so this was a good day for checking things off my footballing bucket list. Overall the version of Bavaria that I saw during my long weekend there played very much into the stereotype of beer, beer festivals, sausage, pretzels, and just when you think you can’t manage another one more beer (and sausages. and pretzels).

Next up I’ll tackle my biggest International Soccer Scran piece until last as I do a retrospective on my time in Madrid both last year and for a few days this covering games from the Bernabeu to the Polideportivo Vicente Del Bosque and everywhere in between.

However until next time go forth and eat pie (or pretzels!)

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’ and part-time Madrileño with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.

 

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Pie 133: The Saltcoats Victoria Pie

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I’m making use of a rare hangover free Saturday morning to bring you another edition of Meat Filled Pastries. The original plan was to head out for a Park Run but I have been wiped this week so I’ve swapped the tarmac for typing. In two weeks time however I won’t have that option as I take part in the Glasgow Men’s 10K (the running shoes are on stand by for tomorrow morning). Once upon a time I couldn’t run ten metres without my body questioning what madness had taken over. There’s still times when that madness still descends so to keep me right I always run for the Kick Cancer’s Backside Fund in memory of my mate Smit who died aged 28 from bowel cancer.

If you like my stories of pie, think cancer is a bastard or have a few pennies to spare then the link above takes you to our fundraising site. All donations go direct to the Bobby Moore Fund for Bowel Cancer Research. We’ve raised over £40,000 since his death and I continue to be astounded by the generosity people can show. If you’ve read this and have donated then thank you.

Right, charity shilling complete let’s get into the meat of this matter and so without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

Where: Campbell Park, Saltcoats Victoria 0-11 Pollok, West of Scotland Cup, 2nd Round

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Price: £1.70. Yes this is expensive for a junior pie but in some way, as I watched the players of Saltcoats chase shadows during an 11-0 defeat, I was at peace with this. If I have to pay an extra 20p to help keep these players playing (at the very bottom rung of the junior ladder where glory is seldom an option) for another season then no worries. I’d be the first one to bemoan a club going to the wall due to a lack of funding. As an aside Saltcoats are yet another Ayrshire based junior outfit who offer up a Killie Pie for consumption, albeit at a slightly higher price point.

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Presentation: A rarely seen in the juniors shiny silver case meant that on this, one of Scotland’s sunnier days, the pie seemed to retain its heat for eternity. A single sheet of white kitchen roll provided some respite from juggling the straight out of the oven case.

Meatiness: I think if I had to describe the filling of this pie it would be as functional. The meat was decently textured and flavoured with no stand out contributing factors. There was no discernible kick to speak of but the filling held well inside the pastry case and as my first meal of the day after a few pints it more than did the job of satisfying my hunger.

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Pastry: Again another functional piece of pie making, kudos for ensuring that the pie was sealed well enough that it didn’t stick to the bottom of the tin and it did have a nice crisp texture to the bite. The kind of crispness where you can break a bit off and dip it into the condiment of choice atop of your pie. Which brings us neatly to…

Brown Sauce: I was a bit reckless with my squirt and so a thicker than normal layer of Asda’s (I think!) finest added the vinegary, spicy tang that only brown sauce can.

Overall: If you’re hungry and want a pie. This will do the job.

Gravy Factor: Standard Bisto.

Another pie bites the crust (love a pun!). I have a bridie review lined up next from my hometown club and the Southside’s finest, Pollok. I’ve decided that whilst the junior season wraps up I’m going to get through as many pastry reviews as possible knowing that I have a couple of long reads and a World Cup of Scran to look forward to.

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’ and part time Madrileno with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries. 

 

 

Pie 132: The Hurlford United “Onion” Pie

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Sometimes, I forget where I have and haven’t eaten a pie before. Well that’s not strictly true, I will have almost always have eaten a pie but have I reviewed it? My latest trip to Hurlford United is a good example of this occasional quandary.

I have visited Blair Park a number of times since I started this website/blog/travel guide of Scotland’s most random villages and towns and I know that I had at least written one review of their standard Scotch Pie. I also knew that they stocked the infamous Killie Pie, or The Kilmarnock Pie to use modern parlance, but I had never reviewed it here as naturally, I waited until I had reached this pies natural home of Rugby Park, which turned out to be just a few weeks later.

Some places are known for their variety of pastries. Offering not only pies in a variety of flavours but sausage rolls, pasties and bridies too. Others less so often focusing on one core product, the majestic Scotch Pie. Hurlford United (in my head anyway) were always somewhere in between so it was with some slight befuddlement in my voice I responded with “Aye mate!”, when propositioned with an Onion Pie from their Pie Hut that greets you as you enter the ground. How had I missed this? Has this always been here? Have I been depriving myself of the best pastry that The Ford have to offer for years? I had to know!

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

Where: Blair Park, Hurlford United 3-3 Pollok, West Superleague Premier Division

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Price: £1.50. As previously discussed in my most recent review from Bathgate Thistle a quid and a half is a growing trend in the pie pricing world. Onion Pie’s are a particularly strange breed when it comes to categorising. In theory it’s a luxury pie what with it not being a Scotch Pie pure breed but at the same time it’s essence is essentically scotch with some onion chucked in and so my expectation would be that the price remains much the same. In most cases (including this one) that is always the case and even if you were to grumble you’re still only paying £1.50 for a hot lunch of perfectly balanced carbohydrates and protein. Never to be sniffed at.

Presentation: There seems to be an excess of napkins floating around the junior football scene as for the second review in a row I was presented with not one, but two sheets of white paper goodness. The added benefit being that you not only get to have a napkin to hold your pastry in but you also have an almost un-splattered second one to clean your top lip.

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Meatiness: So with an onion pie, I always find that the ratio of meat to onion can vary. Anywhere from 75/25 in favour of meat to more than 50/50 in favour of onion. I don’t think there’s a right answer on this as it totally depends on the type and pungency of your onion but for me a good ratio can be told by the smell of the pie, and this pie, undoubtedly had an oniony tinge on the nose and with further inspection it’s presence clearly visible ingredient as a pastry filling. Once I took my first bite there was a slight hint of sweet onion flavour however what was more predominant was a fiery pepper kick, for me a bit too strong as it overpowered the meat, which whilst had a fairly decent texture, lacked the oomph to compete. The onion also soon wilted against the power of pepper and by the end the kick had turn to a slight burn in the back of the throat. Which ultimately, was a little bit disappointing.

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Pastry: The pastry was a little patchy but had crisped up nicely on the top edges to a lovely golden colour. What was a joy was the unexpected chew of a jerky like substance that had boiled out of the pie a little, like a little nugget of fatty onion flavour. The tell tale two holes of an onion pie were also present and all in all at no point did I fear losing the meaty morsels within.

Brown Sauce: Hands up! I can’t remember the brand but given the taste and appearance it’s slightly vinegar tang added a nice layer to the overall eat.

Overall: Variety is the spice of life so it was good to see another pie offering from Hurlford United, if I was to eat one of these again I’d like to see a little less of that pepper spice just to smooth out the taste.

Gravy Factor: Onion Gravy with a hefty kick!

I think it’s fair to say I haven’t fully got back in to the rhythm of regularly writing. I have quite the backlog at the moment of ideas and concepts but when I hit a mental block I always ensure there’s a pie or two in reserve to try to get the juices flowing. With that in mind I have another review from Ayrshire coming in the not distant future, this time from Saltcoats Victoria, the games are coming thick and fast, and where possible I’m hunting out a new review before the season ends 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’ and part time Madrileno with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries. 

Pie 131: The Bathgate Thistle Pie

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Hi folks, I’m finding myself starting to get a bit behind with these again, it’s the way of the junior football season. You go November to February with hardly a fixture to seek and then the clocks change and all of a sudden you are left with a veritable smorgasboard of fixtures to go to at the business end of the season.

I was having a look at the numbers behind the site and was staggered to learn that these here gospels of pie have reached 125(!) countries across the globe. It’s mad for me to think that somebody could be sitting and reading this with their feet up on the beach in St. Lucia, at base camp of Mount Everest in Nepal or whilst munching an arepa at a bar in Venezuela. The world is getting ever smaller and I’d love to think that somewhere somebody has read one of these stories and took it upon themselves to book a flight and head to Scotland all in search of the mythical scotch pie they have so often read about. It sounds mad, but is also the kind of thing I’d decide to do, and if I would then I know someone else out there would too.

That’s never going to happen though if I stop feeding their inspiration so let’s move on to a new pie review from Bathgate Thistle who have their scotch pies provided by a former two-time World Scotch Pie Champions in Boghall Butchers so no pressure here lads.

Without much further ado let’s rate some pie!

Where: Creamery Park, Bathgate Thistle 1-2 Dundee Downfield, East Premier League

Price: £1.50. Slowly creeping more and more into the pricing structures of a junior Scotch Pie, compared with some of the £2+ aboominations you get at senior grounds though it’s still decent.

Presentation: Standard presentational practices here, except it was doubled! That’s right, not just one, but two medium-sized white napkins, more than sufficient to hold the pastry and mop your lip afterwards.

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Meatiness: This was a well filled pastry with a little layer of air on top to allow the meat to breathe in its pastry tomb. The texture was just right, easy on the bite and with a little give to it. Minimal risk of spillage unless you started getting reckless. The taste was predominantly meaty and savoury with a light pepper kick that was pleasant and finished with a little linger. You can understand why this pie has seen success in the past, everything done very well from a meaty perspective.

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Pastry: The pastry was solid and held well throughout consumption. The base was firm and the top golden, there was a little bit of boil out but I’m OK with that and often believe it adds an extra wee note of flavour to your pastry. I’ve found that when I don’t have a lot to say about the pastry that tends to be a good sign.

Brown Sauce: A squeeze of Asda’s own brand was plenty for this pastry.

Overall: A Scotch Pie Hall of Famer and I can see why as all in all this was just a very good scotch pie, perhaps a little by the numbers, but ultimately you’d be super harsh to try to criticise it.

Gravy Factor: The kind of gravy that you’d be happy to give to everyone from your mates to your gran, nothing controversial, just a solid, well-executed scotch pie.

So a good bit of pie there from Bathgate Thistle. I now have just the two pie reviews and two editions of the International Soccer Scran series to get through over the coming couple of weeks so keep your eyes peeled for more updates. I also feel like there’s something to be done for the World Cup but haven’t fully formed an idea on that yet.

So 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’ and part time Madrileno with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries. 

Pie 130: The Girvan “Sausage Roll” Pie

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Aye alright I know this isn’t a pie, but it is a meat filled pastry, and given the successful tasting experience that was Pie 129: The Girvan Scotch Pie it would have been remiss of me not to give this a bash whilst I was in the area.

More on that in a minute but speaking of things that aren’t quite pies it would be equally remiss of me not to mention the launching of a new venture from your intrepid pie eater. For nearly five years I have travelled the country and beyond tasting a wide variety of pies, pasties, sausage rolls and bridies, casting judgement on what I believe to be a good meat filled pastry. I have also for a large part of that time been a frequent visitor (including a few months as an inhabitant) to Spain where they and their Latin American cousins share my passion for a good pastry.

So what does this all mean? Well I am happy to announce a new venture: Empanadas Escoces. My attempt to bring the best of hispanic pastries to Glasgow and who knows maybe beyond. I have no idea how this will go. It could be a disaster. It could be a runaway success. Either way I’m going to give it a bash and see what happens. I’ll no doubt post the odd update on here but if you want to keep up to date with everything as it happens then you can follow @empanadassco on Twitter & Instagram whilst you can also find news on Facebook by searching Empanadas Escoces. If this site has taught me anything over the last few years it’s that you never know until you have a go.

Empanadas Escoces

With that public service announcement out the way, let’s get back to the reason why you all came here in the first place. Without much further ado, let’s rate some sausage roll!

Where: Hamilton Park, Girvan 0-5 Pollok, West Superleague Premier Division

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Oh by the way, this is Ronnie, he’s one of the regular home and away crew when going to Pollok games. There you go son you are now pie famous. Anyway…

Price: £1.20. Exactly the same as a pie. It’s funny but sometimes the price of a sausage roll (or any other non pie pastry for that matter) can vary greatly when compared to the prince of pastries so it was good to see a consistent price point here.

Presentation: With a sausage roll the napkin has an added significance as instead of being used to place your pastry on it is almost an automatic reflex to wrap said roll in its soft white paper duvet. In this instance the size of the napkin was more than sufficient.

Meatiness: On first looks, as I hope this picture illustrates, this was a massive roll. This, perhaps surprisingly, had me a little concerned as usually big appearances mean that the meat to pastry ratio can be way off, and in some cases downright unacceptable. I am happy to report though that on this occasion the meat content just about made the grade. A puff pastry case will always struggle to compete with a hot water crust when it comes to meat content percentages but with this pastry I felt I was getting a decent sized banger for my buck. The sausage meat had a nice texture with the levels of fat just right to add moistness whilst the meat itself was very tasty. One thing I did notice as I made my way through was the presence of a yellow smear on top of the sausage meat. My only conclusion is that it had to be mustard and if it was it certainly didn’t distract my taste buds during the eating experience.

Pastry: Whilst there was lots of pastry (perhaps a little too much) there was no doubting the quality of the bake. The layers evenly split and flaky whilst the colour on the outside was golden and even. One of the common fall down points for a sausage roll can be the pastry slipping off and you being left with a limp sausage dangling from your fist shorn of its pastry sheath. In this case there was no risk of that happening.

Brown Sauce: Logistically, for me anyway, condiments on a sausage roll just don’t make sense. They slide off, have nowhere to realistically gather and in general are just a bit of a mess.

Overall: Excellent if slightly too plentiful pastry wrapped around some well-flavoured sausage meat. What was that yellow substance though?

Gravy Factor: A Bangin’ Banger.

Well I think it’s safe to say that Girvan has gone on the list of “good football eat locations” with a more than solid scotch pie and sausage roll offering. Well played. Moving on and for fans of the pie reviews this weekend I took a trip to Bathgate Thistle who’s pies are supplied by a former 2x winner of the World Scotch Pie Championship so that will be going on the site soon whilst my International Soccer Scran Series will next take us to Nuremberg. So plenty to look forward to 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. He’s now taken this passion further in the form of Empanadas Escoces a venture inspired by the taste of Spanish pies and a desire to bring them to Scottish Shores.

 

Pie 129: The Girvan Pie

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Finally after what feels like eons, it’s time for a new pie review. Well that’s not strictly true as last month I once again dusted off the net lined hat, tow my white coat down from it’s trusty hook on my bedroom door and headed to my second Scottish Baker of the Year Judging Day in the Kingdom of Fife.

WHist the Scotch Pie Championships focus soley on the pie and is very much incumbunt on the piemaker deciding that their pie is the best of the best Scottish Baker of the Year relies on over 22,500 customers to pick their favourite baked goods from across the country. Split across seven categories I always worry about the early on-set diabetes that the cakes and biscuits sections will bring the judges there, whilst the idea of judging 100’s of loaves, looking for a grain even slightly out of place to differentiate between good and excellent, is to daunting a task for this man.

Luckily though, I was placed on home turf in the savoury pastry section and over the course of 4 hours me and my fellow judges heated, cut, fondled, sniffed and tasted 151 savoury treats all in the hope of finding the ultimate in Scottish savoury pastry cuisine. It’s always a fun if somewhat filling day and I think the winner is a belter, but to tell you what that is I’d have to kill you so whilst we wait for that announcement next month let’s get elbow deep into a pastry I can talk about, the latest entry into Meat Filled Pastries catacombs, the Girvan FC Scotch Pie.

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

Where: Hamilton Park, Girvan 0-5 Pollok, West Superleague Premier Division

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Price: £1.20. As this journey of pie enters its fifth (yes fifth!) year it’s still heartening that you can find a pie that won’t break the bank. £1.20 for a hot meal will always be a bargain.

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Presentation:  A classical presentation style with the pie being presented on a medium-to-large white napkin. Ample room to hold the pie and dab the corner of your mouth at the same time.

Meatiness: As the small sign on the heater proclaimed this was very much a butchers pie. The fill was generous to the point of bursting with the meat well textured and perhaps just a little bit coarser than you would normally expect from a scotch pie. Whilst scotch pies are usually kissed with pepper and mace, along with what ever other secret spices the producer decides to use, this pie was seasoned simply with salt and pepper allowing the flavour of the meat to really sing. The meat was savoury and although it took a couple of bites for my palate to tune in to this filling, once it did, I found myself nodding along with every bite, a sure-fire sign that this was indeed a tasty pastry.

Pastry: The good news continued with the pastry, I mean look at it! Not only incredibly neat but also golden around the bottom, top and sides with not a hint of under-baking where the meat meets the pastry, something that was strangely all too prevalent on the aforementioned judging day. It held up well to the bite and at no point did I feel a juggling motion was required to prevent spillage.

Brown Sauce: HP. It appears there really was no messing about with this Girvan Pie.

Overall: Now maybe because it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these reviews but this was a really good scotch pie. The filling was meaty and tasty despite not having my favoured pepper kick. The pastry was near as perfect as I’ve seen at a football ground and overall I contemplated on more than one occasion getting another one.

Gravy Factor: Fit as a Butcher’s Pie.

Yes, that was some good pie, and as I mentioned I very nearly went and got a second but then, the next item down piqued my interest and it’s gargantuan golden glint caught my eye which is good news for you dear reader as next up I will have a second review from Girvan in the form of a, rarely seen on these pages, sausage roll.

I also have another edition of the International Soccer Scran Series I’m working on so the content will keep on coming before the seasons over. 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.

 

 

International Soccer Scran Special: Benfica

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.