A SMALL corner of the North Ayrshire coast has become a centre of football culinary excellence thanks to the efforts of one small bakery.
Fans of Ardrossan Winton Rovers, Irvine Victoria and Ardeer Thistle may not always have much to cheer on the park - but they can look forward to buying one of the best pies in the country at half-time.
The three part-time clubs are all catered for by The Kandy Bar, a Saltcoats bakery which was named national champion at the recent 2016 Scotch Pie Awards.
Owner Stephen McAllister is the fourth generation of his family to run the business.
“Our recipe for success is simple - we source the best ingredients to make our pies,” he said. “We use the finest minced Scotch beef - we would never scrimp on that. We also use our own mix of spices, and like to think we have the pie shells and lids down to perfection.
You’re looking to get the balance of meat and gravy rightRonnie Murdoch, butcher
“The original recipe was my grandfather’s, and I’ve never had to change it.”
The competition is organised by industry associations Scottish Bakers and Scottish Craft Butchers, with the aim of promoting the very best local produce.
A record 100 butchers and bakers entered more than 500 varieties of pies, pasties, sausage rolls, bridies, savouries and apple pies in this year’s competition.
The Kandy Bar’s overall triumph follows their victory last year in the best football pie category, which was first awarded in 2013.
The 2016 football prize went to Bruce of The Broch, a Fraserburgh bakery which supplies the junior club Fraserburgh United.
The best pie in the Scottish Premiership title went to Brownings the Bakers, makers of the multi-award winning Killie steak pie sold at Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park.
Dumfries-based The Little Bakery, suppliers to Queen of the South, had its scotch pies named as the best in the SPFL.
Silver and bronze awards were given to Pars Foods of Glasgow, whose steak pies can be found on sale at Pittodrie, Tynecastle, Easter Road, Ibrox and Almondvale.
Fans of Highland League football can sample the highly recommended pies made by Cafe V8 at the home of Clachnacuddin in Inverness.
But what makes a pie worthy of a prize?
Ronnie Murdoch, director of Murdoch Brothers butchers in Forres, believes its an art difficult to master.
His business won the inaugural football pie category in 2013, although no longer supplies local side Forres Mechanics.
“You’re looking to get the balance of meat and gravy right,” he said. “If the gravy is too thin, it will pour all over you - which you don’t want at the football.
“It’s also vital to have a good shell, so the whole thing doesn’t collapse when you try to pick it up.”
Meanwhile, Mr McAllister will be in his Saltcoats shop on Saturday morning ready to make a fresh batch of his award-winning pies if required.
“I’ll be on stand-by if the Ardrossan game beats the weather and goes ahead,” he said. “Away fans know they can expect a quality pie when they visit.”