Sunday, November 10, 2019

the "Scotch" pie experiment

You might want to read the Wikipedia entry on Scotch pie before you continue with this post. The humble Scotch pie (or just "pie" in Scotland) is a favorite of hungry folks everywhere—the pie is popular in Scots-influenced Canada—who want a rib-sticking bite to eat during the halftime break of a football match (i.e., a soccer game). Normally made as a squat cylinder with a high rim to allow one to pour in something liquidy like baked beans or gravy, the Scotch pie itself is fairly unprepossessing, being made of a tough-yet-crumbly, hot-water-and-lard crust filled with lamb mince that has been simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and nutmeg or mace. The resultant pie, after it has cooled down, is reminiscent of a thick hamburger patty encased in a pie shell, at least in terms of texture. Even the Scots admit the pie can be somewhat dry, hence the need to pour something on top to provide a bit of moisture.

I can't rightly call what I did a Scotch pie. I violated too many of the parameters from the get-go, so maybe I should call my creation a "Crotch pie" or something.

First, as you see below, I used a small Korean naembi instead of a proper tin or ramekin to make the pie. The naembi interior's bottom is curved, not flat, so there's one violation already. Secondly, I used my idiot-proof pie dough instead of the recommended hot-water-and-lard dough because I happened to have some of my dough lying around. So there's another violation. Thirdly, I seasoned my lamb mince with my Middle Eastern formula: olive oil, melted butter, cayenne, salt, pepper, sugar, dried parsley, dried basil, cumin, turmeric, powdered garlic, and powdered onion. I massaged all of that savory goodness into the lamb, then stuffed the pie shell with it. Lamb has its own natural fat, so I knew there was a chance the pie might come out greasy, but I was less focused on greasiness than on flavor: I wanted to avoid eating a boring pie. Still, that's another violation.

I had enough dough to make the main crust plus the top crust:

I did my best to tuck the top crust into the pie so as to create a "crater" into which one could pour gravy or something else that is moist. Another violation: I fork-crimped the inner edge of the pie, and I used—sacré bleu!—mayonnaise instead of a milk wash to paint the top surface. I did, however, put in a regulation vent:

Below, you can see that the "crater" all but disappeared as the top crust puffed high. This was another violation: by insisting on using my idiot-proof pie-crust recipe, and by rolling the dough a bit too thickly, I was unable to create the hollowed-out shape so familiar to the Scots:

That said, I thought the pie looked awesome on its own terms. I popped it out, and you can see, in the next picture, that the rounded bottom curved up and away from the plate:

Once the pie was cool enough, I split it open for the all-important cross-section:

The pie tasted amazing—much like a gyro, but without all the veggies, tzatziki, and other gyro-related elements. The crust was indeed greasy; a Scotch pie should be easy to hold in one hand without there being too much grease. But you know what? I didn't care. The fat added all sorts of flavor that wouldn't have been there had I listened to the ghosts of old Scottish cooks, and the meat was juicy. My pie definitely wasn't a Scotch pie, but it was pretty damn good.


The Maximum Leader said...

Just a meat pie then?

Kevin Kim said...

Sigh... yeah, I guess so. I'll have to try to respect the tradition and make a true Scotch pie one of these days. You're apparently supposed to let the dough air-dry once you shape it into a crust. This is done instead of blind-baking. There's a lot I'll have to do differently. Just not today.

The Maximum Leader said...

I don't know enough about the process to comment on it. (If I'm being honest.)

But after speaking with R some, she says there is lots of difference between crusts using lard and those that don't. So to do it right you might need to invest in some lard.

Kevin Kim said...

I'll see if I can find some. Shouldn't be too hard.

Kevin Kim said...


Found lard on GMarket and also on SSG is a chain store; there's a branch right next to where I work. I'll waddle over and see whether they have any lard, which goes by the English-sounding "ra-deu" (Korean attempt to spell/pronounce "lard") or the Sino-Korean "donji," where "don" is the Chinese character for "pig" and "ji" comes from the word "jibang," which means "fat." Hence, pig fat. A 700-gram bottle of lard, here, sells for anywhere from $12 to $20. Kind of expensive, but maybe worth it if the goal is to one day make a true Scotch pie. Or any other lard-crust pie.