British Pie Week 2024: the best Scottish pies, from macaroni to Fisher & Donaldson's rhubarb - Gaby Soutar

I fell down a rabbit hole this week. Or, more appropriately, I slipped into the pie hole.

I’d been reading about Elon Musk, as his business Tesla had ordered 4,000 pies from the Giving Bakery in San Jose, then cancelled the order last-minute. The small business took to social media to complain, and, after that, Musk promised to make good on the money they were owed.

Anyway, nobody discussed what kind of pies they were. That’s essential information. I want to live vicariously, or pay for the postage so they can be sent to me. After all, every time you waste a pie, an angel loses its wings.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mind you, I would probably be disappointed. Pies are something different in the US. They use the same word to describe a tart, though pizzas get that strange classification too, as in ‘when the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore’. No it’s not, it’s a shiner and potential loss of vision.

Scotch pie Pic: Joanna Tkaczuk/AdobeScotch pie Pic: Joanna Tkaczuk/Adobe
Scotch pie Pic: Joanna Tkaczuk/Adobe

I also get confused whenever Americans refer to a scone as a biscuit, and then serve it with chilli con carne, rather than jam and cream. Go figure, as they say.

It's not like the UK food taxonomy is any clearer. I will never comprehend why the big pies are called mince rounds, though maybe it’s to differentiate them from the sweet Christmas ones.

If we were to name all our foods after shapes, we’d be having squares for breakfast and triangles with guacamole on top.

I also don’t understand why mashed potato topped casseroles, like fish, cottage or shepherd’s, are also pies. They need a different name.

Still, I will be celebrating British Pie Week (March 4-10) with the classic pastry versions, even if it seems a strange time of year to celebrate this genre, since we’re hitting spring, and you’d think this foodstuff would be losing its appeal. Maybe that’s the point. We need a last hurrah.

Stuff all the pies in your gob before the sunshine spoils our fun.

I’ll be eating them, despite the fact the worst food poisoning I’ve ever had was pie related. I was in my late teens, and visiting a boyfriend in Aberdeen.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He was a student and we were both skint, so, for dinner, I bought a very cheap Scotch pie that was in the window of a scabby-looking bakery.

This was displayed alongside others of its ilk, all of which were under a heat lamp in one of those baked good vivariums that they only have in the very worst places.

It could have been sweating there for days. Bluebottles had probably been using it as a helipad. Still, tasted fine.

However, my symptoms started later that night, and I remember asking him to call me an ambulance because I thought I was going to die.

I probably would have been quite relieved to pass on, around 2am when the vomiting reached an operatic crescendo. I felt like there were four and 20 blackbirds skipping about in my guts.

Anyway, I was on the pie wagon for a while after that, but soon fell off. They’re hard not to love.

The first variety I’d like to revisit, this Pie Week, is a rhubarb pie. Everyone says that Fife’s Fisher & Donaldson do the best version and I believe them. They’re the old-school sort, with a Scotch pie case and Barbie pink syrup bubbling up through the lid’s portal. I have been fantasising about them, and also wondering if you could pour hot custard into that blowhole.

I’m also a fan of pork pies, though I might be the only one.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Their popularity seems to have waned. I know this because I received a press release this week from private chef hire company, yhangry. It revealed pork pies are the least favourite party buffet food, along with crudites, trifle (not sure how that random option made it to the list), vol-au-vents and other Abigail’s-Party-style finger snacks.

I get it. They’re not something you want to eat publicly. Nobody makes passes at pork-pie-eating lasses.

Still, they give me retro feels, right down to the quivering layer of jelly under the pastry jacket. The little ones of these were always a staple lunch when we were kids, along with a dollop of Branston Pickle, which I can still eat straight out of the jar.

Safeway supermarkets also used to regale us with Gala pies back in the day. They’re the ones with the bouncy pork meat and the boiled egg, cut in a perfect cross section, like Damien Hirst’s Mother and Child (Divided).

However, don’t get distracted by its porky and beefy cousins, as the Scottish invention of macaroni pie must not be forgotten. I used to hate them, but I feel that my tolerance for double stodge has increased with age. No tomato sauce though. That’s vulgar.

I will, however, be taking beans with my Scotch pie.

I caught a recent episode of BBC Two’s Hairy Bikers Go West – thoughts with Dave Myers' family after his passing – and they visited The Little Bakery in Dumfries, to help make these delights. The duo were shown how to put the lid on, so there’s a lip around the side, in order that you can put the beans on top. It’s a bean shelf. Who knew? Not me, until now.

So, I guess I could put the custard on this, when I eventually have my rhubarb pie.

That’s amore!

Related topics:



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.