THEY are a succulent staple of the matchday experience which offer nourishment even when the fare being offered up on the pitch can be hard to stomach.
Now, the half-time snack sold at the humble ground of a Highland League club has been declared the best Scotch pie in all of Scottish football, beating off competition from the nation’s top sides.
The savoury treat which is a firm favourite of Forres Mechanics supporters won the inaugural prize set up by the Scotch Pie Club, triumphing over the pies on offer at Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League clubs.
Praised for the quality of its steak and the unique seasoning, the pies are supplied to Forres by Murdoch Brothers, an award-winning butchers based in the town’s High Street.
Already, the firm says that its business is booming thanks to word of mouth among away fans who visit the Forres ground, with some “pie tourists” even venturing from as far afield as the south of England in order to sample one of the delicacies.
The competition, a spin-off of the well-established World Scotch Pie contest, drew in no less than 48 entries from clubs at every tier of the Scottish game, from reigning SPL champions Celtic through to teams playing in junior leagues.
After the pies were judged by a team of football fans and journalists, led by Jim Leishman, the provost of Fife Council and former Dunfermline Athletic manager, the Forres entry came top, closely followed by the pies made by Reids Highland Fare for Invergordon FC, who ply their trade in the North Caledonian Football League.
Ronnie Murdoch, director of Murdoch Brothers and the third generation of his family to run the butchers, said he was thrilled to be recognised by the awards, and put the success down to the quality of his ingredients.
“Hopefully people recognised how good the steak and the gravy is, we’ve always been very proud of the pies and it’s reassuring that the judges thought the same.” he said. “The beef is all really good quality Aberdeen Angus that’s locally produced and it’s a tribute to the farmers we buy from. We prepare all the steak itself so it’s a really lean, meaty pie with a beautiful gravy, and it’s great that our customers all appreciate it.
“As folk who’re born and bred in Forres, it’s an honour and privilege to have supporters buying the pie, and we’ve been supplying the club with pies for around three years. It’s been great for the business. You get people coming into the shop specially to buy a pie and get their photograph taken - we call them pie tourists.
“Believe it or not, some folk have come from the south coast of England, and we have a healthy number of internet customers - the pies are especially popular in Devon and Somerset.”
Asked about any secret ingredients which go into the pies, Mr Murdoch added: “There is a special seasoning we use, but that’s going to stay a company secret - we can’t give that away.”
Dr James Anderson, the chairman of Forres Mechanics, who currently sit just four points from the summit of the Highland League, said: “It’s great publicity for the club, for the town, and particularly for the butchers. We can’t take any credit for the pies, but they are very, very popular with our supporters.
“Hopefully this prize will help increase attendances at the games. I’m certain that for the next few games, every away fan coming to the ground will want to try a pie. They can sell out at half-time and hopefully that’ll continue.”
Alan Stuart, founder of the competition, which is supported by Scottish Bakers and the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders, said: “It gives me great pleasure to be recognising the role the football pie plays in our sporting heritage in this way and I am delighted to say a great pie took the ultimate prize.”