ALTHOUGH it might not be the healthiest option for a meal or snack, the humble pie and all its variants remain popular in Britain.
Scotland in particular holds the pie dear to its heart, with many of the finest Scotch pie producers making this list. And why not. The crusty self-contained four-inch pastry, invariably filled with beef, is a favourite in many bakers, butchers and football terraces alike. Indeed, it has become a national pastime mastering the art of balancing the hot meat interior of your half eaten pie with one hand while insulting the football referee with your other.
Like a football team, punters vociferously defend their favourite baker or butcher as the leading pie maker in the land. But, while many of us settle for the consistency of the high street brands, independent bakers and butchers play a central role in Scottish farming communities, with many of them sourcing all of the ingredients for their pies locally.
In November, many on this list will compete in the eighth World Scotch Pie Championships, held by the Scotch Pie Club. This popular contest is an important tool in the marketing and exposure of pie manufacturers in Scotland. The leading producers of bridies, steak and speciality pies also have a place, as scotsman.com looks at some of the best places in Scotland to get your fill.
Auchengree Farm Shop
Auchengree Farm, Beith, North Ayrshire
The Auchengree Farm Shop can boast many award-winning pastries, including cottage and steak pies. Auchengree prides itself on the produce it sources from local farmers, while its production techniques, such as maturing the beef for several weeks, are also important to its owners.
65 Margaret Avenue, Bathgate, West Lothian
Paul Boyle, the sole proprietor of Boghall Butchers, believes family recipes and delivering the pie to the customers hot from the oven is at the centre of his success. A former world champion Scotch pie winner, Boghall Butchers also has award-winning bridies and steak pies, while its poached haddock pie has won specialist awards.
To read more about Boghall Butchers, see this article from the Edinburgh Evening News.
Bon Bon Cake Shop
103 Graham Street, Airdrie, North Lanarkshire
After winning the World Scotch Pie Championships and picking up a diamond award for its bridies last year, the Bon Bon Cake Shop can claim to be one of the best pie makers around. Shop owner Robert Cowan prides himself on the traditional homemade pie making that has made his customers come back time and time again, some for the past 40 years.
To read more about the Bon Bon's victory at the world championship and its owner, Robert Cowan, see article.
Blackwood of Kilmacolm
15 St James Terrace, Kilmacolm, Inverclyde
Blackwood is renowned for quality, featuring its steak pie with red wine and shallots gravy. This Scottish champion speciality steak pie is a favourite all over Inverclyde and Renfrewshire.
Brownings the Bakers
117 King Street, Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire
Brownings the Bakers can boast the most loved pie in Scottish sport amongst its products. They supply pies to Kilmarnock Football Club, with the resulting "Killie Pie" distinguishing itself as "top of the football table" in Scotland. But Brownings have proven that it is more than simply a turnstile teaser, picking up the British Baker of the Year award in 2003, with owner John Gall proudly pointing out that it is the only Scottish baker to win the honour.
59 King Street, Crieff, Perthshire
Owned by Ian and Alice Campbell, this seventh-generation family bakery opened in 1830. Wholesale sales amount for 30 per cent of the company's income, with Gleneagles and Crieff Hydro hotels amongst its customers.
Blackwaterfoot, Isle of Arran
Donald Galbraith has run his butcher shop for the past 32 years. This wee gem on Arran proves the greatest pies can come from all over Scotland.
Halliwells Quality Butcher
39 Market Place, Selkirk, Borders
With a large range of pies on offer, Halliwells gives any resident of the Borders an opportunity to eat the best of this humble delicacy, with owner Gordon Newlands proud that his shop is entirely supplied by local producers.
36 Commercial Street, Markinch, Fife
Jim Hastie, owner of this excellent butcher, reveals that the proof in the pudding (or the pie) is in the eating. The runner-up in last year's World Scotch Pie Championships believes that his flasks of the finest cut beef, rusks, seasoning and a secret ingredient are behind his prize-winning products.
40 Leven Street, Leven, Edinburgh
Saunderson's of Edinburgh has been a family business for some 50 years with its current owner, John, having worked in the shop for the past 20. John believes his knowledge as a butcher helps him make some of the best pies around, with particular care taken in the cutting and treatment of the meat.
Lochinver Larder Riverside Bistro
On A837, Near Lochinvar, North Ullapool, Sutherland
On the road from Ullapool, Lochinvar Larder has had considerable success and exposure since it was named BBC Radio 4's Food and Farming Best Producer in 2003. Popular with hillwalkers and locals alike, owners Ian and Debra Stewart also run a delivery service of their award-winning pies.
22 Market Street, Forfar, Angus
The Cross, Forfar, Angus
9 High Street, Kirriemuir, Angus
While owners Bill McLaren and his daughter Karen Murray haven't ventured out to the awards ceremony stardom, they can boast some of the best bridies, the poorly marketed cousin of the Cornish pasty, in Scotland.
Nicoll's Rosebank Bakery
58 – 64 Byron Street, Dundee
The first of two entries featured from Dundee. Nicoll's, a bakery which is part of a larger grocery store owned by Stewart Deuchar and his sister Wendy Holmes, won the 2005 World Championship for its bridies.
R and J Chapman
53 Main Street, Baillieston, Glasgow
The 2005 steak pie world champion, R and J Chapman represent the several excellent bakeries and butchers in Glasgow. Since its honour, sales have increased about 35 per cent, with as many as 1,500 steak pies sold in the four days before Hogmanay 2005/2006. It must be down to its unique gravy recipe.
Sugar and Spice
96 High Street, Auchterarder, Perthshire
Alan Devlin undoubtedly takes the prize for the most political pie maker in Scotland. When the G8 came to town in 2005, Devlin and his former world Scotch pie champion-making team made a special pie for the G8 leaders consisting of mince and dumplings, representing the "mince they talk and the dumplings in charge!"
Wallace Family Bakers
34 Mains Loan, Dundee
Wallace's are predominantly a wholesaler but their shop is a favourite in Dundee. Indeed, the family has long had links with the baking industry in the area.
So what do you think? It would be impossible to include all of your favourites here, such is the diversity and prominence of independent butchers and bakers in Scotland. Leave your comments below and tell us your personal pie champion.