As National Pie Week is the focus for veggie and meat-filled pastry product enthusiasts, pie aficionado Brian Stormont explains his enduring love for the Scottish favourite.
I can remember the day, although not the exact date, I fell in love pies – and it was a moment that developed something bordering on an obsession with pastry products, and a lifelong desire to find the best.
It was a Saturday in the early 1980s, maybe around 80 or 81, when I was eight-years-old, while heading on a trip to Glasgow to see the football.
Health and safety wasn’t even a consideration back in the early 80s – and my brother and I often occupied the boot of the car on trips to matches.
A stop was always made at the Blackford Hotel owned by a lovely chap called John, who was affectionately known as “Jilted John” after Graham Fellows’ one-hit wonder in 1978.
However, while the men in the group were supping on their pints, I was in the backroom watching the TV, enjoying a soft drink and eating a pie.
Now, I had eaten pies before, but I had never had one of these pies before.
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I presume these delicacies had been supplied by a local baker or butcher in the morning and then kept warm in John’s oven until the afternoon.
They had an amazingly crispy, almost slightly charcoaled crust from their time in the oven, and when you bit into it the meat was the moistest and tastiest Scotch pie filling I had enjoyed the pleasure of tasting.
Thereafter, I had to have one of those pies when I visited Jilted John’s. This I know was the beginning of a lifelong love of all pastry products – and it is safe to say I have had my eyes on the pies ever since that day.
Scotch pies were my go-to pastry product as a child, but as I got older I expanded my repertoire.
There were two things that fuelled my desire for pies and also bridies – one, my family hailed from Forfar where we would often go visiting relatives; and two, I lived next door to a baker’s shop!
When in Forfar, there was no way you were keeping me out of McLaren’s who, in my opinion, make the best bridies I have ever tasted. I absolutely adore them, and will never go to Forfar without having one (or two!).
If you are ever in Forfar just walk past McLaren Bakers on Market Street just for the smell alone. You then won’t be able to stop yourself going in, I personally guarantee it.
Living next door to a baker’s shop just meant that I could pop in for a pie whenever I liked, manna for a meat treat lover like myself.
Now, there was a rather seismic shift in pie production in the late 1980s which has continued until this day – people started putting things other than meat, and mince in particular, in pies and bridies.
First came then steak bridie, with flaked pastry and not shortcrust. This was a game-changer for me, but there was more to come.
Chicken curry in a pie, macaroni, steak and black pudding, steak and haggis, Balmoral chicken, chicken and sweetcorn – the new fillings just kept coming.
It truly was a great time to be alive!
Black pudding and blue cheese
And the evolving nature of the pie business has never stopped as we now see artisan pie makers coming up with amazing fillings such as hoisin, black pudding with blue cheese and onion marmalade, mince and tatties, chicken bhuna and cauliflower bhuna, the list goes on and on!
There really is now a pie for every occasion – I mean there is even a breakfast pie, including sausage, bacon, black pudding, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and even beans in some cases.
My mission from around eight years of age was to find the best pie in the world. I know that this is a mission I will never in fact accomplish, but one that I will continue to enjoy endeavouring to complete until my dying day.
Pies are so incredibly versatile that it seems there will be no end to the inventiveness of pie makers.
For a pie lover such as myself, that can only mean the future of pastry and its fillings is a bright and exciting one.
However, I will never forget that Scotch pie in Blackford that made me fall in love with them to begin with.