east of scotland
Hello my meat filled mates with the turning back of the clocks I’ve hit the road to try and once again find the best football pies in all of Scotland. Towards the end of last season I wrote a piece focusing on the great junior defection to the East of Scotland Football League that sits within the SPFL pyramid structure. My original piece can be viewed here in the final issue of The Football Pink which has recently been made free to download as an attempt to help shift those Brexit blues so why not give it a look.
As I stood, because I wasn’t paying the pound extra to sit in the stand, at Beechwood Park I tried to assess my feelings on how the first season of this new era of non league football in Scotland had went and what, if any, differences it has made.
It’s fair to say it has brought some freshness to proceedings for sides in the East of Scotland. The random drawing of conferences still seems to me an odd way of doing things but it has meant that sides now have a chance to face up to some less familiar foes. There has of course been renewed enthusiasm to promote the game with one Twitter user on a mission to gather the attendances from every EOSFL game this season but has it led to increased attendances? I’m not so sure. Next season will see the EOSFL conferences shuffled based on this term’s performance it still seems difficult for those clubs at the top of this new structure to break into the Lowland League, a league which perhaps still contains clubs that would struggle when pitted against some of the EOSFL’s biggest sides. The demise of Selkirk should also act as a note of warning to clubs that moving away from the juniors will not guarantee a one way ticket to the land of milk and honey but overall the change appears to have been a positive one.
I can’t finish on this topic though without putting my junior fan hat on and it’s fair to say that with almost all of the East of Scotland heavyweights now sitting within the pyramid the Scottish Junior Cup has this season felt like a diminished competition. Whilst the West Region has been dominant in recent years the removal of these sides from the mix has meant that the games have felt more familiar and the romance that is associated with a big time East v West encounter has been lost.
Sauchie Juniors home of Beechwood Park hosted one of these cross country clashes last season as they lost 1-0 to a visiting Hurlford United in the 5th Round of the competition. This chilly spring evening though they were in EOSFL – Conference B action against Dunipace, another one of the junior movers, in their opponents last game of the season as a crowd of just over 100 watched an entertaining 2-2 draw. The big question now though, how did their pies fair?
So without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!
Where: Beechwood Park, Sauchie Juniors 2-2 Dunipace, EOSFL – Conference B
Price: At £1.50 this pie falls slap bang in the middle of your non-league scotch pie price bracket. A price point my pocket appreciated given my forgetfulness in hitting up a cashpoint before entering the ground.
Presentation: This pie was placed on top of a thin, medium sized white napkin that just about held up under the weight of the pastry. Luckily there was also a small paper plate present. Sometimes a plate can feel superfluous but for this pastry I was thankful it was there.
Meatiness: This was a very well filled pastry although I was taken with how dark the meat appeared to be, not in a negative way, but more as a curiosity. It was a very moist pastry that meant there was a good layer of fat throughout each bite adding a strong and savoury flavour punch. That fat though did mean that the filling was loose, closer to mince than a solid block of meat, and so fell apart a little as you broke down those pastry walls. Call me mad but there was, in my mind anyway, a touch of beefiness to this pie although I wonder if the darkness of the meat meant my tastebuds were deceiving me.
Pastry: The pastry despite the moistness of the filling held up well and once lifted from the plate was somehow both soft and crispy underneath. The top was a little pale and the sides were a little cracked but overall the construction of this pastry was sufficient to just about hold things together from within.
Brown Sauce: A tangy surprise in a big brown bottle.
Overall: Pretty tasty. The filling had a good smack of meaty flavour, nice texture and the pastry just about held up its end of the bargain.
Gravy Factor: Dark and Strong.
Watching football as the sun sets brings a weird sense of zen into my thoughts with the view of the Ochil Hills afforded to you at Beechwood Park adding further calmness within. Next up is a review from Clyde, where I got myself a free pie, kind of, but more on that next time.
So 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. A member of the SWPL Media Team and a contributor to various football websites and publications he also currently acts as Heart & Hand Podcast’s resident Iberian football expert, hosting “The Isco Inferno” a weekly take on all things Spanish football. 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.
Happy New Year from Meat Filled Pastries! My apologies for a lack of activity recently, a fixture list that saw a string of home games for Pollok along with weather conditions that obliterated almost every game I had lined up to go and see meant that things have been rather quiet on the pie front so far in 2016 and my first offering of the year has not a drop of pastry in sight.
Before the review though let me share with you the outcome of this year’s 2016 Scotch Pie Awards hosted at the Westerwood Hotel, Cumbernauld on the 13th January. Once again I was honoured to participate in the judging process to find the best pies and pastries from across our fair land, first judging in the hot savoury category and then taking part in the second round to find the World Scotch Pie Champion who this year is found at The Kandy Bar in Saltcoats. A full list of winners can be found at http://www.scotchpieclub.co.uk/ as well as by following me on Twitter (@MFPTasty). As always I had a blast both on the judging days and attending the awards themselves meeting numerous individuals who make my passion for pie look paltry. I left the ceremeony thinking that there is work to be done to promote pastries at our football grounds and with that in mind I thought I would share with you the 2016 Football Pie Winners, headed by Bruce of Broch’s steak pie offering, available at both Fraserburgh in the Highland League and Fraserburgh United in the North Region Juniors. The full list is below, I’m writing this on the move so apologise it’s only in picture form:
Congratulations again to everyone involved. So with that covered off, without much further ado, let’s rate some pie! (Or in this case a burger!)
Where: Broadwood Stadium, Clyde 0-1 Queens Park, Scottish League Two
Now usually I’ll go through a series of ratings before summing up my feelings on the quality of pastry I have been provided with but as this is ‘not a pie’ and has some key elements like pastry missing then the following is more of a long winded monologue (for ‘long winded monologue’ read as rant) on the state of non pie based catering at Scotland’s football grounds. I have no idea where this is going to go so I’ll try not to ramble.
I have always been one to build my Saturdays around a game of football, it’s always felt wrong to sit in the pub and watch Soccer Saturday, however since I have started this little venture a new variable has been added; have I reviewed a pie there before? In the case of Clyde I had not and with the Scotch Pie Club Awards ceremony happening just around the corner the following week I smelled the opportunity for a tie in.
Imagine my disappointment then as I walked into the main stand to find the shutters down and a steward ‘helpfully’ pointing me towards the corner of the stadium in the direction of a burger van. This isn’t the first time this is happened this season and my apologies to Clyde that they are getting the ones that have unleashed my ire but going to a ground and being able to get food, but not a pie, makes me sad and a little bit angry.
Now before people start getting defensive I understand a couple of variables may have been in play in this situation:
- It was January 2nd. A Scottish Bank Holiday. A day where the whole of Scotland sit in their pants and watch a Wallace and Gromit marathon whilst eating the remaining left over turkey and steak pie.
- Maybe the butcher wasn’t able to provide pies that day.
- As it is such a day of rest maybe wee Betty who runs the pie counter didn’t fancy hauling herself down to Cumbernauld to feed a bunch of folk for a fiver.
You know what? If any of the above are true then fair enough, everyone deserves a holiday. Maybe a bit of better planning would help in the future and I can almost, ALMOST accept the contingency of a burger van coming into play if the quality of the fare offered in the place of pastry is of an equivalent or higher standard. Sadly though, in this instance, and in many others, you are presented with a crunchy frozen burger heated up on a griddle and topped with a slice of limp processed cheese and some barely warmed through onions. Don’t believe me look at below:
Scotland, renowned for nurturing some of the best produce in the world, and this is what you get presented with. Then after discovering the one place where you always expect to ‘take a pie’ doesn’t provide one you are stung with the fact you have to pay more (£3!!) for the privilege to eat something that you wouldn’t look twice at it in the frozen meats section of your local supermarket.
I understand some people don’t like pies, these people are beyond help but understandably football clubs, in a bid to boost revenue streams, often provide alternatives. I don’t particularly like it but I don’t object to it. Burgers, fine. Hot Dogs, OK. Chilli, stovies, curry all easy to prepare in large quantities and warming to the soul on a cold day, I’d rather they weren’t there but they serve a purpose. All of them, all of them bar one: Chips. Sh*t chips. Really sh*t chips. Think about it, have you ever went to a game and walked out the ground thinking, ‘my, those chips were right braw!’. Football chips are an abomination and fall into one of two categories:
- Canteen style mass-produced tatties, usually found in larger stadiums. Available already sitting lukewarm under the heater for your tasting pleasure accompanied by sachet’s of sauce that are impossible to open because the smallest amount of grease on your fingers turn the small tear you need to pick at to get into the condiment of your choosing into some kind of water torture.
- Chips at smaller grounds where invariably a man stressfully fills the deep fat fryer he’s brought in from home with enough chips to serve one person at a time as an ever increasing queue populates itself with frustrated individuals unable to make their purchases until the 17 minutes required to cook these frozen beauties to just past raw perfection.
Chips! Do one.
I’ll stop here. You know my stance by now, I want pies, have your other things but I want pies. I want to protect the sanctity of a product that is so special to Scotland and ensure that at football matches in 2055 people are still letting the gravy smatter their face and the grease run down their elbow. With that in mind, and to support Scotland’s butchers and bakers I will be compiling the first ever (I think!) Scottish Football Pie Database. Telling you what pies you can get where and who can provide them. I want football clubs across the country to really champion there pies and the people who provide them. This year there were 53 pies entered in the Football Pie category, sounds grand doesn’t it, and yet there is:
- 42 SPFL clubs
- 18 Highland League clubs
- 15 Lowland League clubs
- 17 East of Scotland League clubs
- 14 South of Scotland League clubs
- 165 Junior clubs
Plus a plethora of amateur clubs I haven’t even mentioned, all of a sudden 53 out of 271 doesn’t sound that impressive. For the 2017 Scotch Pie Awards let’s get more involved!
Right that’s me. I’m off my soapbox and next time out I will be back with the first of two proper pie reviews from Linlithgow Rose 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.