Could we make a real scotch pie? From scratch?
When we first started Scottish Scran and we were planning what traditional Scottish foods we wanted to make, the idea of an authentic Scotch pie recipe kept coming up.
You can find traditional Scottish meat pies, called Scotch pies, all over the country in bakeries and supermarkets. They’re usually inexpensive but make a tasty snack or addition to a full meal.
But of course, we wanted to see if we could make our own Scotch pie recipe at home! Like all our traditional recipes, we try to go back and find the most authentic recipe possible. This involves checking out old recipe books and researching until we find several traditional recipes, which we then make and adapt to create our own. And it turns out Scotch pies really haven’t changed a lot over time!
The idea was also that if we could make the traditional meat pie, then we’d be able to start thinking about some other tasty fillings to make too. But more on that later…
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What is a Scotch pie?
First, what exactly is a “Scotch” pie, and what makes it different from any other meat pie?
The origins of the pie are actually from so long ago that no one knows quite where they came from, although it’s generally accepted that the Scotch pie has been made in Scotland for at least the last four or five hundred years. You can’t get much more traditionally Scottish than that!
The first filling was spiced mutton and sometimes you’ll still find Scotch Pies called a Mutton pie, although now minced lamb or beef is more commonly used. While every recipe for the filling differs slightly there are some common spices used including mace and nutmeg that really make the pie a Scotch Pie.
The difference between a Scotch pie to other mince pies is the pastry, called “hot water pastry”. It’s more like a crust rather than a flaky pastry, meaning it can be moulded to form the distinctive round with straight sides. The pastry lid of the pie is placed about a centimetre below the top of the sides, allowing for the pie to easily be eaten by hand with an extra topping like sauce, mash, gravy, or baked beans filling the gap.
For that reason, Scotch pies were often associated with the working class who could easily eat them on the go on breaks, or with football stadiums where they were served to take back to the stand and continue watching the game.
We took a look at LOTS of different variations of the Scotch pie and did our own taste testing too. We’re confident we have it right! Of course, there’s always room for changing things to be how you like them, but here’s what we consider to be the perfect Scotch pie recipe…
Ingredients for the Scotch Pie Recipe
The recipe has two parts, the pastry and the filling.
Hot Water Pastry
- 250g plain flour – 2 cups
- 100g lard – 1/2 cup
- 120ml water – 1/2 cup
- 300g lamb mince
- 1 small onion
- 1 tsp mixed herbs (typically basil, marjoram, and oregano. You could use rosemary as well).
- 1/2 heaped tsp mace
- Beef stock, lamb stock, or lamb gravy – Mix up and use about 4 tbsp or until mixture is just wet.
- A liberal amount of salt and pepper throughout the recipe.
Lard isn’t exactly the nicest thing to cook with but it’s necessary to make hot water pastry. If you’re looking for a vegetarian substitute then you could use a combination of butter and vegetable shortening, or for a vegan scotch pie pastry, you’d need to purely use vegetable shortening. We haven’t tried with either of these options yet but plan to do so in future so we can release specific recipes for them. Let us know if you do!
We stuck with lamb mince for our Scotch Pies, given the most traditional filling was mutton but that’s not really a supermarket shelf staple now. Lamb is now more common, or you can use beef if you prefer, but this will, of course, give it a different flavour.
How much stock or gravy you’ll need to use is dependent on how fresh the meat is and how much fat is in it. We’ve found when the meat is a little older you need more stock, but when it’s fresh you need less. We also used meat that was 20% fat, but if there is less fat you may need more liquid. The aim is to give the meat flavour without making it too wet otherwise the pastry will go soggy and you can lose the taste of the herbs.
Things you’ll need to make Scotch Pies
- Small tins or something to mould the cases around (about 10cm width)
- Rolling pin
- Small pot/pan
- Large bowl
We bought specific mini tins to make scotch pies, but we appreciate that not everyone will want to do so. The tins we chose are known as pie tins, or in the US, mini cheesecake tins like these. You could also use a large muffin tray like this, if you think that would suit you better to own in the long run, as long as the sides of the wells are fairly straight.
Using a tin means you know that you’ll be able to get the correct shape and you can always use them for any other pies or also mini cheesecakes and cakes. If you like to bake then they are worth the investment!
However, if you want to try the recipe and you’re not up for the investment then you can still hold the pastry and bake the pies in another way.
Use a large jar or something round and big enough to be able to mould the pastry around the end of so it becomes hard, like a vase, large glass, or even a tin can, although this would make smaller pies.
Once the cases are hard you can take them off and fill them as usual, then tie a strip of baking paper around the outside to help it hold its shape while baking in the oven.
How to make this Scotch Pie Recipe – Step by Step method
Start by oiling the pie tins, or whatever you intend to use to shape the pie. If you’re not using tins then you can cover the end of the jar/glass etc with cling film so it doesn’t stick too.
Put the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle.
Cut the lard into small cubes and add to a small pot of hot water. Use a smaller pot so that the lard is just covered by the water, (it’s only a tiny amount). You don’t want it to boil so keep an eye on it and stir until the lard has melted into the water.
Next, pour the mixture into the well in the flour and mix with a wooden spoon. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead a little. As the hot water pastry cools it becomes harder to manage so you need to work reasonably quickly.
Although when we read that on all the recipes we thought we had hardly any time at all but we took around half an hour to make the pie cases and it was still fine.
Divide the pastry into 4 and then take a little from each ball to save for the pie lid. It will be somewhere between a quarter to a third depending on the size of your pies.
Roll out the pastry balls to about 5mm depth one by one and put them into the pie tins. We rolled to approximately 20cm width each for our 10cm tins and then used our fingers and a little gravity to mould, easing down the sides and even out the top of the pastry against the side of the pie tin.
If you’re using a jar or glass then drape the pastry over and cut around it to ensure it has a flat edge where the top of the pie casing will be. You can put cling film over the jar/glass as well to help it not stick rather than oil.
We rolled out our lids and put them on cling film on a tray. The lids will need to fit inside of the pie casing so you’ll want to make sure they are not the exact size of the tins but slightly smaller.
Put all of the pastry in the fridge to harden. You can actually make the cases well in advance if you like and just leave them in the fridge.
In the meantime, finely chop one small onion and fry in a pan. Add the mace and mixed herbs, and then put in a bowl with the minimum amount of stock/gravy. Once cooled add to the lamb and mix through. Add more stock/gravy if you think it needs it. You don’t want there to be too much liquid as it will leak out of the pie while cooking.
Divide the mixture up into balls and put it in the pie tin, then push down with the back of your knuckles to spread the mixture and fill the pie cases. You only want them to be about 3/4 full.
Push the pie lids down into the pie casing, so they are around 1cm from the top of the pie. The pastry is usually still a little malleable and you can smooth the edges of the lid into the side of the pie to join them together. Cut a small hole in the top of the pies to let the air escape, around a centimetre or so.
If you haven’t used pie tins then at this point you’ll want to cut some strips of baking paper and tie them around the pie cases with string, just to help the pies hold their shape while they’re cooking.
Put the pies in the oven for around 45 minutes at 180°C or 356°F. Check them at about 35-40 minutes to see how the pastry is doing. It should go a light golden-brown colour.
You can remove from the tins as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. Then you just have to decide if you’re having then with brown sauce or red sauce (HP or ketchup) or some other topping!
Different Scotch Pie Fillings
Once you get the hang of the hot water pastry then your ability to make different Scotch Pie fillings is basically endless! We plan on featuring some more popular combinations here soon, including a haggis filling and the classic Macaroni pie. Yes, that’s Macaroni cheese in a Scotch Pie!
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Hot Water Pastry
- 250g plain flour (2 cups)
- 100g lard (1/2 cup)
- 120ml water (1/2 cup)
- 300g lamb mince
- 1 small onion
- 1 tsp mixed herbs (usually a combination of oregano, marjorum, and basil. You could also use rosemary.)
- 1/2 teaspoon mace
- 4tbsp lamb stock, beef stock, or gravy (minimum amount, you may need more)
- Salt and pepper
- Start by oiling the pie tins with a little vegetable oil, or put cling film over the end of the glasses/jars you intend to use.
- Put the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
- Cut the lard into cubes and add to a small pot of hot water, stirring until it's melted. Don't allow the water to boil.
- Pour the mixture into the flour well and mix together with a wooden spoon, until it’s mostly combined. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead a little to make sure it's fully combined. As the hot water pastry cools it becomes harder to manage so you need to work reasonably quickly.
- Divide the pastry into 4 balls and then take a little from each ball to save for the pie lid. Between a quarter to a third depending on the size of the pies you're making.
- Roll out the pastry balls to about 5mm thickness one by one and put them into the pie tins, ensuring there is a flat even edge to the top of the sides of the pie. We rolled to approximately 20cm each for our 10cm tins. If you’re using a jar or glass then drape the pastry over and cut around it to ensure it has a flat edge where the top of the pie casing will be.
- Roll out the lids and put them on cling film or baking paper on a tray. The lids will need to fit inside of the pie casing so you’ll want to make sure they are not the exact size of the tins/cases but slightly smaller.
- Put all of the pastry in the fridge to harden.
- In the meantime, finely chop one small onion and fry in a pan. Add the mace and mixed herbs, and then put in a bowl with the minimum amount of stock/gravy.
- Once cooled add to the lamb and mix through. Add additional stock/gravy if the mixture isn't too wet. You don’t want there to be too much liquid as it will leak out of the pie while cooking and make the pastry soggy.
- Divide the lamb mixture up and fill the pie cases about 3/4 full.
- Push the pie lids down into the pie casing, so they are around 1cm from the top of the pie.
- Cut a small hole in the top of the pies to let the air escape.
- Put the pies in the oven for around 45 minutes at 180°C or 356°F. Check at 35/40 minutes as you want the pastry to be just golden-brown.
- You can remove from the tins as soon as they’re cool enough to handle.
The easiest way to make the pies is with small individual tins. You can use mini cheesecake/cake tins, or a large muffin tin if the sides are straight.
If you don't have or want to purchase these then you can use the bottom of large glasses, vases, bottles, or even tin cans (although these are slightly smaller) to shape the cases and let them harden and then tie them with baking paper and string while they're cooking to help them hold their shape.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 837Total Fat: 50gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 27gCholesterol: 138mgSodium: 427mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 39g