food blog

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. 

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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.