pies

Pie 125: The Greggs Pie

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Happy New Year from MFP Towers. I hope you all had a smashing time bringing in the bells whether you were out partying or having a quiet one. I hope that 2018 brings you all the joy you can handle and the success that you desire. I spent the bells on the top of a hill watching Reykjavik come alive with fireworks for a genuinely jaw dropping hour or so but now I’m back and it’s time to kick 2018 off with a bang by reviewing the one pie that has ruled the high street for as long as I can remember. It’s time to rate The Greggs’ Scotch Pie.

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

Where: Greggs. They have over 1750 locations throughout the UK but mine was purchased on Victoria Road, Glasgow.

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The Social: Website, Instagram, Twitter.

What’s it all about?: The largest bakery chain in the UK, Greggs is synonymous with providing you an array of pastries, sandwiches and sweet treats to go. However for every glorious Festive Bake there has been a not so glorious Chicken Katsu version has followed. But the big question is, as the UK’s favourite purveyor of pastry, how does their Scotch Pie fare?

What was on my plate: No plates at Greggs, instead it comes in a paper bag, with this particular bag still sporting the festive colours of red and white. Something which I had never considered until now was how odd it was that they never give you a napkin to capture the cascade of crumbs, grease and sugar that many of the bakers snacks cover you in. It’s actually kinda baffling.

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Price: £1.15. Inflation, rising costs and a little bit of greed may have meant that the cost of a Scotch Pie at Greggs surpassed the £1 mark a long time ago but it is still a relative bargain for a hot (more on that shortly) meal.

Let’s get some eats: Now before we go into the meat of this pie matter I think it’s important to address something that is very much specific to Greggs: the temperature of your pastries. I have purchased the majority of my Greggs in the Greater Glasgow area and over the years I have learned that there are not one, not two but three different temperatures in which your pie can come in:

  • Furnace Hot: This is where your pastry has gone straight from the oven and into the glass display cabinet, sometimes if you are lucky you will see this very action take place among cries of “WATCH YER BACK AGNES I’VE GOT A HOT TRAY HERE!”. Whilst there is no doubt heat can be good pie munchers beware as that first bite will strip the skin from your lips and burn a hole in your soul. No amount of blowing on it will prevent you from escaping this fate. You just have to suck it up and do your best monkey impression as you take your first few tentative bites.
  • Wee Bit of Heat in it: This pastry will be a victim of one of two sets of circumstances. Either the branch of Greggs you visit is outside and the door left open, no doubt letting whatever apocalyptic weather is raging outside in to instantly cool anything that has come from the aforementioned furnace. Or scenario two, where the pastry has been sitting out for a while perhaps as a result of an overbake ahead of the lunch time rush. You will know if your pastry has a “bit of heat in it” as the person behind the counter will touch the pastry with the back of their palm and ask you this eternal poser, “It’s only got a wee heat in it, is that alright?” Even if you think it’s not you say it will be.
  • Staun Cauld: When you get presented with something that you wouldn’t hesitate twice to cool yourself down with on the beach. These pastries feel like they have been taken straight from the heart of a glacier. If a pastry is “staun cauld” there’s a high chance that it’s been sitting there since time began and could be used as a blunt instrument in battle as well as providing a disappointing pastry experience.

My pie had a wee bit of heat in it, which for me is the best for speedy consumption. The first thing I noticed about my pie was the heavy dusting of raw flour on top of the pastry lid which itself had been subjected to some boil out from the meaty contents below adding a darkly shaded puddle to the floury snowfall.

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The next thing that became apparent was that the pie was overbaked, or to use regional parlance: well fired, particularly on the bottom and on the edges. Whilst this wasn’t blackened it did make for a super crispy and somewhat difficult bite. As I took my first chomp, dabbed with the traditional squirt of brown sauce, I looked forward in anticipation to the taste sensation from one of the UK’s biggest selling pies. The crescendo of expectation soon turned into instant disappointment as this was perhaps one of the most one note pastries I ever did try. No notes of sweet or savoury. No pepper kick to warm the cockles and tickle the taste buds just a fairly banal but perfectly edible block of meat (beef and mutton, although I’m not sure you’d know). To be honest I suspected as much, this after all is one of the most mass produced pies on the market, but it was still disappointing not to have a single flavour peak or trough to pass comment on.

For £1.15 it’s hard to grumble too much but really this should be better.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Easily available
  • I got my favoured temperature profile

Cons

  • Just a bit dull

So a Greggs’ Scotch Pie, not the culinary delight my heart would desire but it won’t be going anywhere any time soon so if you’re in a bind you could do a lot worse than a pie. But then, I like pies. Anyway, next up is a return to the football field and a review of the Queens Park Cheese & Onion Pie.

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.

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Pie 110: The Pollok ‘Steak’ Pie

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Hello and welcome to some what of a homecoming for Meat Filled Pastries because as many of you may have realised by now a great deal of my reviews are as a result of my travels around junior football supporting my local team, Pollok and today’s review comes from their home, Newlandsfield Park.

For as long as I’ve been going to Newlandsfield there has been only one pie on the menu, the humble scotch pie. Sure there has been sausage rolls and bridies, I’ve even been known to be partake in the odd hot dog or two but in the main it’s always a scotch pie that is left there sitting in my hand come game day. At the end of last years successful season, and after a few of Caledonia’s Best, I was asked my opinion on bringing a steak pie into the culinary fold. I immediately gave it my thumbs up before getting into a debate about what price it should be that drinking jaegermeister out of a trophy made me forget it’s outcome the very next day.

Jaegermeister: Makes you Tell Everyone Everything and Remember Nothing!

At the start of the season I was then somewhat disappointed to discover that no steak pies were to be found. I didn’t think much of it putting the conversation that was hazy in my memory down to one of those lost in the bottom of a pint glass. Imagine then how my heart soared when a few weeks ago a 24 steak pie trial took place. As the clubs resident pie expert I had to get involved.

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

THE SURROUNDINGS

Where: Newlandsfield Park, Pollok 4-2 Beith, West Superleague Premier Division

One from the archives, forget to take a picture as I was in more familiar surroundings.
One from the archives, forget to take a picture as I was in more familiar surroundings.

Price: Piloted at a price of £1.60 this is about average for a luxury steak pie found at junior grounds in the west region. A pilot price that has since increased to £1.70 on full roll out, just in case next time you’re at Newlandsfield you feel short changed by the price of your pastry.

Presentation: Unusually for a steak pie there was no tin foil surround. At first it was presented on a medium-sized white napkin but as I began to walk away I was shouted back and advised ‘That might not be enough’, before being given an extra couple of sheets of kitchen roll. You don’t get that kind of consideration at Parkhead or Ibrox.

THE PIE

Like the baby Jesus wrapped up in his manger. Except this is a pie, and that's kitchen roll.
Like the baby Jesus wrapped up in his manger. Except this is a pie, and that’s kitchen roll.

Meatiness: This pie was filled to the brim with some lovely and unctuous gravy. It was well seasoned although slightly salty but not offensively so and the consistency was near spot on, firm enough to hold should your conversation start getting a bit ‘handsy’. The meat was split across the pie into about a half dozen substantial chunks. Cooked well enough for you to bite through it tenderly without having to tug too hard, with your teeth tearing off the meat into the kind of thin strips of beef that only long and slow cooking can provide.

Pastry: The first thing I noticed that this wasn’t a puff pastry case that is most commonly attributed to a steak pie but instead something more akin to a scotch offering. Secondly this pie was the definition of golden brown in colour. It was immaculate in that sense without even a hint of boil out. It was also perfectly round, on first appearances it was very impressive. There were a couple of issues though. To accommodate the wetter filling of a steak pie the pastry was a little thicker than you would normally find on a scotch pie which, whilst not an issue on the sides and bottom, did result in the top ‘flapping’ a bit as you took a bite almost like a cracker on a pile of mince, not to the detriment of taste but just a little bit fidgety.

Brown Sauce: None. It’s a luxury pie.

Overall: A tasty steak filling with a slightly biscuity pastry top but perhaps one of the most attractive pies I ever did see.

Gravy Factor: Biscuits and Gravy. Tasty gravy.

I hope they let me in next week after that review. I’ll always be honest, even when it comes to my home town team and this is definitely a worthwhile addition to the matchday menu. The next review is yet to be determined as winter throws up all manner of possibilities in the footballing calender thanks to the never ending raft of call-offs and re-arrangements.

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. 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.

Pie 66: The Fulham ‘Steak’ Pie

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Down by the Riverside...
Down by the RiversPie…

It has taken nearly 16 hours of sleep and general slovenliness today but finally it is time to say welcome back to Meat Filled Pastries and Pie 66 on my quest to tell you about the best pies around. Today’s malaise has been brought as a result of a couple of days spent in London with the Tartan Army. This particular adventure took me to Craven Cottage a ground I have always wanted to visit for its refusal to turn itself into a cantilever carbon copy of so many grounds in the Premiership. The cottage in the corner with its 72-seat capacity, its sudden emergence from the heart of west London’s leafy suburbia and the river bubbling by at the side of the stand all designed to endear the ground to football traditionalists everywhere. At this stage I should probably confess this review may come across as a little fuzzy as a 7am flight from Glasgow meant that come kick off time at 8pm the same day I was rather well lubricated. I’ve also made the assumption that this pie would be the same pie provided should I attend an actual Fulham game, as I’m not sure if there is a long history of meat filled pastries in Nigerian culture.

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

Where: Craven Cottage, Nigeria v Scotland, International Friendly

Price: Considering Craven Cottage’s location in one of the more affluent areas of one of the most expensive cities in the world it should come as no surprise that this pie left a sizeable dent in your wallet. That dent was to the tune of £3.80, the equivalent of about 3 Scottish Junior Pies! Despite my suspicions being proven correct it still prompted an ‘Excuse Me!?’ (the language may have been tidied up a bit here), as the young chap behind the counter opened the till.

Presentation: I wonder if they would have knocked a pound of the price if I had just asked for a napkin?!? This pie was pimped. First at the base was a small cardboard holder producing additional shielding from the heat generated at the base of the pie transferring itself to the tinfoil case it was sitting within. Slotted between the cardboard holder and the tin foil case was a square of picnic-like greaseproof paper, totally superfluous to the consumption of the pie itself in that it did not help to hold the pie nor clean your face after its consumption, however, this was not the most ridiculous thing about it. Oh no, that was reserved for the plastic fork plonked, and I mean plonked, directly into the middle of the pie!

A B#**@@”ING FORK! Do the delicate digits of the nearby Belgravians not appreciate getting down and dirty when it comes to eating a pie? Look girls, take off the silk gloves, tuck in your pearls, get your hands on this meaty marvel and get right set about it, if you get a bit of gravy on your chin then wipe it off with the napkin provided and then touch up your make up in the closest WC. DO NOT EAT A PIE AT THE FOOTBALL WITH A B#**@@”ING FORK. I challenge anyone to try to eat a pie with a plastic fork and see how long you last before your throwing it away in anger and getting elbow deep in your pastry.

Meatiness: This is probably where this review is going to go downhill a bit as it is at this point that my review notes stop and my memory will have to come in to play, so I apologise for what may be about to follow. Reviewing my notes I am able to tell you that the meat inside was formed by large chunks of steak, my preference when eating a luxury steak pie, but from here though it’s a struggle. I’m assuming there was an abundance of gravy as when I woke up in the morning a gravy smattered napkin was in my jumper pocket and I do remember thinking that the pie was well seasoned within. Whether or not it was £3.80 worth of well seasoned? Well, a second trip may be required.

Pastry: Now for some reason I have a pretty good memory of the pastry. The top of the pie was a thick-ish layer of puff pastry, the kind of puff where you can noticeably see the layers and it flaked nicely as I bit down. The top of the filling and the bottom of the top crust mixed well and although there were a couple of spillages more than likely down to my compromised dexterity the pie held together well throughout. The edge of the crust where the walls and top met were a little thick for my liking, a minor grumble but that thick edging would have no doubt broken any plastic fork that attempted to break it down.

Overall: A good but pricey steak pie that kept this drunk man’s hunger at bay. It was presented like a box of chocolates and it would be remiss of me not to say that eating a pie by the riverside was how I’d like all my pie tastings to be. There was no scotch offering but that was to be expected.

Gravy Factor: Look, you just don’t eat gravy with a fork no matter how luxuriously it’s priced!

Another pie done, I’m almost tempted to call this a bonus pie, purely on the basis that I wasn’t expecting to remember it sufficiently for a coherent review but I think I’ve done a pretty good job considering. There’s still a few more pie reviews to come before things kick off in Rio at which point I’ll be taking a break from the pie chat for a few weeks.

However until, next time go forth an eat pie!

Pie 65: The Hamilton Accies ‘Steak’ Pie

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STEEEEAAAAAK!!!
STEEEEAAAAAK!!!

Not much of a pre-amble to this latest addition to my ever growing pynasty. It’s another pie review from that 12 goal extravaganza at New Douglas Park and a return to the luxury market. As it stands there will be at least 3 more reviews before the season ends but I’m going to keep their locations a secret for now.

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

Where: New Douglas Park, Hamilton Accies v Morton, SPFL Championship

Price: Breaking the £2 barrier at £2.10 not the cheapest steak pie that has been offered up to me but by no means the most expensive. A 30p upgrade on the standard scotch version at the home of the Accies.

Presentation: Much like Pie 64, (The Hamilton Accies Pie), this was presented in a tin foil cases and wrapped in a medium sized white napkin. There was no severe heat coming from the aluminium foil which is always a sweet relief when handling a pie presented in this nature. A point of note, something which may be present in all tin foil cases but has so far alluded my eyes, is that in the base of the cases there was 3 small holes pricked in the bottom. No big deal you would think but in actuality this is a rather ingenious way to prevent the pastry steaming and sticking to the bottom of the case, thus ensuring that your pie maintains it’s structural integrity. Something I will certainly be keeping my eye out for in the future.

Meatiness: A steak pie that was from the coarse mince school of luxury as opposed to earning its stripes with meaty chunks or a mixture of both. Personal preference dictates that I love a meaty chunk, the additional texture it provides is always a winner, but the benefit of getting a more mince like consistency within your pastry is that the sauce feels more oozy and generous. It was maybe a spoonful short of being filled to its optimum level but the taste was perfectly pleasant and well seasoned. It was however rather no frills, and although the extra 30p was worth it I was again left with a slightly generic memory of this pie.

Pastry: As is so often the case with a footballing steak pie this had  standard case with a puff pastry top.  The pastry fell apart a bit as I was eating it but that was more due to my appetite cajoling me into taking bites that my mouth clearly could not handle. Whilst the ceiling of the pastry was lovely, soft and flaky it did not mingle in as great as volume as I would have wanted with the gravy inside. Soft pastry kissed with meaty gravy is truly one of life’s pleasures and I felt in this instance I was a little robbed.

Overall: Once again my belly was full and my taste buds were suitably appeased but I felt this was a pie that was lacking in a bit of sparkle and pizzazz, although the discovery of holes in the tin foil is certainly something worth keeping an eye out for.

Gravy Factor: It’s a steak pie at the end of the day, and who doesn’t love a steak pie. Sustainable Gravy.

As the season comes to a close I have to admit to a bit of pie fatigue, it’s a hard thing for one man to write about on a weekly basis but the compliments and words of encouragement from those that read it drive me on to eat more pies. Such a hardship!

Anyway my next pie might taste like silver polish and confetti…..

Until next time go forth and eat pie!

Pie 26: The Cowdenbeath ‘Steak’ Pie

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Back in the lap of luxury.
Back in the lap of luxury.

Well here we are again, as promised, the Cowdenbeath Steak Pie is next to go under the taste test of Meat Filled Pastries. The site is currently under some modifications, hopefully culminating in a snazzy new banner so don’t be scared of the change, embrace it. Anyway back to pies. One of the things that you learn to appreciate when you go to a lot of football games is the variety of food that a particular ground can offer. Whilst some will stock solely Scotch Pies, Bovril, Juice, Sweets and Crisps others are a bit more adventurous although I’ll never forget my disappointment that you couldn’t get Arbroath Smokies at Gayfield. Cowdenbeath, however, certainly fell into the more adventurous heading as can be seen below:

Variety is the spice of life, except when you want to review a pie.
Variety is the spice of life, except when you want to review a pie.

Please focus your attention past the Bacon Rolls and Lentil Soup to the bottom item on that list, Corn Beef Stovies. A truly unique addition to the footballing menu. Now in these circumstances I have a difficult decision to make and I have to remind myself that I need to put pies before what my stomach desires for the benefit of this little project. Normally I would have had my mits wrapped around a warm cup brimming with Corn Beef Stovies but knowing how unlikely it is that Central Park will bw somewhere that I will visit again soon, and knowing that this site is called ‘Meat Filled Pastries’ and not ‘Corn Beef in a Cup’, I selected a steak pie for my secondary consumption,

I know, I’m your hero. You’re Welcome.

Before we get into the review let me remind you of a couple of the rules that surround a ‘luxury’ pie. Firstly no brown sauce should be required and secondly as you are paying more than for your usual scotch pie the overall quality should be of a higher standard.

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

Where:  Central Park, Cowdenbeath v Dundee, SPFL Championship

Price: At £2 this ‘luxury’ steak pie is actually cheaper than the scotch equivalents found at Ibrox and Hampden getting this review off to a good start without a bite being taken,

Presentation: Identical in presentation to the Cowdenbeath Scotch Pie, presented in a silver tin foil case with a medium size white napkin, sufficient enough coverage of the case to prevent you dropping the pie due to excessive heat.

Meatiness: The steak inside the pie was smaller chunked than you would usually find in pies of similar ilk and also seemed to have some coarse mince running through it as well. I took this as an indication that the meat inside was incredibly fall apart tender something that I am happy to confirm after taking that first bite. The gravy was rich and flavoursome and was of a consistency that was sufficient to coat the meat and also ooze a little from the pastry without being runny and causing puddles in the tinfoil casing.

Pastry: The pastry was cooked well, with the underside of the top part of the casing willing enough to absorb that lovely gravy. Unfortunately it had caught a little on the bottom which meant that when I went to pick up the pie for it’s first bite I left 75% of it in the case! Once again, not a massive flavour flaw but more of a potential distraction when trying to watch a game of football. I am however happy to share a couple of tips I have used in the past to resolve this issue.

Tip 1: Break a piece of the outer crust off, if baked well enough this should be sturdy enough to use as a pastry spoon to scoop out that meaty goodness.

Tip 2: Eat all the topping of the pie using your fingers ensuring you have sufficient napkin support for the inevitable mess you get yourself into. Once the majority of the filling has been devoured use the now softened base to wrap up the remaining filling into a Steak and Gravy Taco.

In this instance I went for the pastry spoon option which worked just fine.

Overall: A tasty steak pie, with a well flavoured gravy meaning adding brown sauce never entered my mind. the meat was tender and well textured. The pastry fell apart a bit but as this was once again consumed before kick off provided an amusing aside to the pre-match routine.

Gravy Factor: Tasty but messy gravy although sometimes that’s the best way for it to be.

So that’s another pie quaffed, that’s 26 for the season as we enter the winter months, so until next time go forth and eat pie.

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