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.
Is anyone else fed up with the weather playing absolute havoc with their Saturday fixture plans. I mean for a man who writes about football pies it’s been a minor inconvenience, if anything it has expanded my horizons as I go to games that would have been consigned to sporting history as I followed my team across the country. These ever burgeoning horizons I find myself heading towards resulted in my first pie related television appearance on The Riverside Show last week. It was a surreal, but thoroughly enjoyable, experience and one that perhaps reignited a fire that had been dampened somewhat as the grind of real life meanders oh so slowly by.
I don’t know if this means that I’ll be taking David Currie’s job on Sportscence any time soon but maybe, just maybe, I can find a way to get paid for all of this. I’ll never go begging and I’d like to think that the initiative (something that is forever championed as the best way to get your foot in the door) this project has shown will one day illuminate my path to, what some would call, legitimacy.
For now though I’m happy enough with the path that these pastries has led me on. Anyway we all know why we’re here, so without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!
Petershill Park, Rossvale v Musselburgh Athletic, Scottish Junior Cup 4th Round
Now before I get too deep into this, I went to this game knowing that I had previously had a pie from the very same venue, one of my earliest reviews, Pie 16: The Petershill Pie and to be honest it didn’t go very well. Now retrospect suggests that having a tequila based hangover may have had a slightly adverse effect on my review but I still know that some things were fundamentally wrong and I was curious to see if much had changed from my visit 16 months previously.
Price: At £1.50 it was the top end of the junior scotch pie price spectrum but still reasonably priced for a football based pastry snack.
Presentation: On my last visit I bemoaned the use of a plastic and paper bag to store the pie in and once again I was presented with a pie in such a reciprocal. However differing from previously this pie was also surrounded by a tin foil sheath. Not a big deal I hear you say, but this aluminium shield stopped the pie in its entirety steaming against the plastic. I don’t know if there is a reason for the bags at Petershill Park but people’s pie lives would be enhanced further if the bag was taken out of the equation. There were some small white napkins available of the self-service variety for mopping your mouth with.
Meatiness: This pie was a well-formed, safely seasoned scotch pie. The filling fell apart a little as I chewed my way through and I was pleased to feel a peppery linger on my palate that slowly built up as I neared final consumption. It wasn’t anything mind-blowing, it hit all the key points a decent pie should without moving on to the next level but it was definitely a marked improvement on the pie I had experienced the last time I visited the north of Glasgow.
Pastry: As can be seen the top edges were rather crispy. Well OK, they were burnt meaning that there was a slight bitter undertone to each bite. I’m sure if I visited another time this extreme crispiness would not have occurred. I previously mentioned how the tin foil case had helped reduce the moisture inside the bag however sadly there was still a slightly soggy bottom to this pie, however if you mixed it with the well fired top the texture was probably just right!
Brown Sauce: Wee sachets of mass-produced no-name sauce. Did the job.
Overall: A better effort from Petershill Park, and perhaps Rossvale deserve individual credit for providing their own pies. I’d love to know the right answer. That said it was a little burnt on top and a little soggy on the bottom but had an overall good pie flavour.
Gravy Factor: Bog Standard Bisto. Just take it out the oven a bit quicker next time.
I literally have no idea where my next review will emanate from. Last week I was so convinced that my scheduled game would be on I got so sozzled on the Friday night that come the news that it has indeed been called off I was in no real fit state to drive. What I can assure you of though it will most definitely be pie number 88.
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.
There is something that you should know before I continue this review:
I had drank a LOT of Tequila the previous evening.
Tequila is generally NOT conducive to wanting to feast on Meat Filled Pastries, however with that being said after a can of that well known Scottish elixir of life Irn Bru, I gathered myself and tucked right in. So without further ado, lets Rate Some Pie!
Where: Petershill Park, Petershill v Pollok, West Superleague Premier Division
Price: Now, got to be honest here. I was rather hungover folks and as such neglected to take a note of the individual price of my Meat Filled Pastry. However through the powers of deduction I can ascertain that as it was £4.80 for 2 Pies and 2 cans of juice, that the pie was at his cheapest £1.40 based on the fact a can of juice will be no more than £1 and to be honest those cans are usually less. Either way that is a pricey Junior pie. (UPDATE: Petershill have contacted me via Twitter and have kindly provided the price of the pie as £1.50.)
Presentation: The pie was presented in a half paper, half plastic bag, an unusual presentation technique for a pie and one that was not a success in this instance. For a start the paper was not enough to contain the pie’s heat, providing insufficient protection from the warmth that a napkin would, luckily they were on hand although were rather on the small side. Then we have the plastic, oh deary, deary me, the plastic. Helping to create what can only be described as a ‘sweaty’ pie, with a thin layer of grease wrapped all the way around the outside making the need for a napkin of greater substance even more paramount.
Meatiness: A Scotch Pie things were disappointing here as well. Somewhere there is a pie maker, in his hairnet and white coat, furiously grinding salt and pepper into an empty pie case because mine certainly was lacking the seasoning a good pie requires. Not even the saviour of many a poor pastry, Brown Sauce, could provide the flavour kick my heart desired.
Pastry: The pastry was ample, too ample for the meat that was provided. It was well browned but due to the way the pie was kept warm in the plastic and paper it took on the taste and crunch of something deep fried as opposed to lovingly baked in the oven. It like most of the rest of the pie left an unsatisfying layer of grease on your lips after every bite.
Overall: Look I want all pie’s to be meat filled delights, but I have to be honest and this is the first pie on my journey that didn’t hit the mark. It was never given a chance the moment it was left to steep under a heating lamp wrapped in plastic, whilst the filling was lacking in that meaty punch in the chops that every football fan is looking for.
Gravy Factor: Anaemic gravy, somebody used one scoop of the best Bisto they could get their hands on when 3 or 4 were required.
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