The Husband and I went on an amazing trip this time last year and seeings how yesterday was Robbie Burns Day, I’ve just got to tell you about it. That’s right- January 25th is the birthday of Robert Burns. Robert Burns was born in 1759 and is regarded as the National Poet of Scotland. On January 25th folks throughout the world, though especially in Scotland, will be remembering him with a Burns Night Supper. Robbie Burns has indeed inspired me to share this recipe for these delicious Scottish Pies, sometimes also called “Scotch Pies” which is perfect for a casual Burns night supper.
I’m often inspired by our travels to come home and make one of the dishes from the area we visited. Although I have done a few of these blogs in the past, I am woefully behind on them. But I am really going to be doing some backtracking and telling you about our past travels, boring you with our vacation photos, offering a few recommendations on hotels, tours etc. and sharing a recipe or two in the process. So let me get on with it! At the end of January 2018, we set out for the Shetland Islands via Glasgow and with a stopover in Iceland on the way back. The Shetland Islands are a group of islands which lie between the north Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, 104 miles north of Scottish mainland. It is the same latitude as southern Greenland and closer to Norway than Scotland. Now I bet you’re wondering, “Why exactly did you go there in the middle of winter? Wasn’t it cold?” Well, truth be told it wasn’t really much colder than it is in Virginia in the winter, temperatures hovering slightly above freezing. However it was a whole lot more windy and wet. The precipitation did come down as rain vs. snow, but oh my Gawd was it windy! And why January? Because that is when the town of Lerwick, the largest in the Shetlands with a population of about 7,500, holds its annual Up Helly Aa, a viking festival, which we had been itching to go to for years. But before I get into the big event, our first stop was Glasgow.
I had actually visited Glasgow previously. It was the husband’s first visit. Glasgow has been overlooked as a destination for years, losing tourists to the fancier, more posh Edinburgh. And while I think Edinburgh is a gorgeous city, I have always been partial to Glasgow. To me, Glasgow felt much more laid back, friendly and comfortable. In recent years, the city has undergone a revitalization, seeing a large influx of bars, restaurants and shops. The place is absolutely buzzing with excitement. We were lucky enough to have ended up there during the annual Celtic Connections music festival. The husband and I love going out to see live music, so this was right up our alley. We saw the Deslondes, one of our favorite bands which hails from New Orleans,
in an amazing venue – Òran Mór. Located in Glasgow’s vibrant West End, Oran Mór was formerly the Kelvinside Parish Church, but has now been transformed into a truly unique venue, offering up two bars, a restaurant, a nightclub as well as a live music hall.
We also saw ever enduring (celebrating 30 years together this year) English folk/punk band The Levellers at Glasgows Old Fruitmarket – another unbelievably cool music venue tucked away in Glasgow’s stylish Merchant City.
The Fruitmarket, was as the name suggests, originally a market where fresh fruit and vegetables were sold up until the 1970’s. The amazing renovation manages to retain all of the period charm of the original building including all of the ironwork, balconies and beautiful vaulted ceiling.
Although we didn’t have a lot of time in Glasgow before venturing further north, we were able to visit Glasgow’s stunning cathedral,
stroll through the Necropolis (Glasgow’s large Victorian cemetery),
visit the iconic Cloisters of the University of Glasgow,
explore the extensive Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
spend a luxurious afternoon at Blythswood Square Spa
and relax in one or two (or so….) of the local pubs.
We also did manage to get out of the city for one day. Frank Jones, the owner of Wee Adventours, picked us up in his very luxurious Land Rover and whisked us away from Glasgow out on an action packed day of adventure. We knew that we did not want to get crammed onto a big bus full of tourists to be rushed from stop to stop. We wanted something a bit more personalized and relaxing and that is what we got with Wee Adventours. The lovely Frank was an absolute pleasure to spend the day with, so friendly, funny and charming, it felt as though we had known him for years. Having worked in the tourism industry for some time, he was very knowledgeable about the history, customs and landmarks of Scotland and enthusiastic to share it with us. He spent a little time before the day of the tour finding out what our interests were and then customized an itinerary just for us. We did a small hike around Loch Lomond
and visited the town of Sterling. We had a great time at Doune Castle which is not only where Monty Python’s Holy Grail was filmed, it is also Castle Leoch from The Outlander television show and was further used as the set for Winterfell in Game of Thrones pilot.
Last but not least, we visited charming Glengoyne Distillery for a tour and a Whisky & Chocolate tasting. Just an amazing day!
Already an action packed holiday and we hadn’t even got to the main event! Turns out, much to my delight, the Husband absolutely loved Glasgow and said he couldn’t wait to return. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that we really made an excellent choice when we decided to stay at The Dakota Deluxe Hotel. The Dakota was fantastic! They offer free airport transfer during the week, which was so nice. Everyone we met who worked there was so friendly, charming and ready to help in any way they were able. The spacious rooms were decorated tastefully and the beds were very comfortable. The location was perfect, we were able to easily walk to most everything that we wanted to do. We look forward to our next stay, which will definitely be happening!
So this is how we actually found ourselves in Scotland, Glasgow is particular, on Robbie Burn’s birthday. In the past I’ve shared lots of recipes with you that would be great for your own Burns Night celebration. There were these Cranberry Bannocks:
And these Drop Scones – which might be better for Burns Breakfast – perhaps served around 2 am after a wee too much indulgence in the pubs.
Which I always serve with this Scottish Harvest Bread, called Struan:
And who could forget thyme impressive and delectable Scotch Eggs!
Which I have also done deviled:
Last year, we did not attend a big, formal Burns Night Supper, but did enjoy a lovely dinner in Fault & Blame – a fantastic, laid back pub located on in Glasgow.
It was there that was we were served these delicious Scottish Pies with mushy peas and mashed potatoes. Absolute heaven I tell you!
Now I know I’ve told you how we absolutely love meat pies. This blog is chock full of recipes for them. I’m pleased to say that the Scottish Pie (sometimes called Scotch Pie) is no exception to our pro-pie stance. A Scottish Pie is a small, personal sized double crust meat pie, usually made with mutton or minced lamb. Very popular in Scotland, and actually throughout the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Canada & Australia, these pies are often found at football matches resulting in the nickname – “football pies”. But these pies are not a modern invention, oh no no no. In the middle ages the Scottish church really had it in for these little treats. They viewed them as decadent luxurious English style food, cautioned their parishioners against the perils of indulging in them and advised them to stay clear. Thank goodness these little delights were able to endure the test of time! The pastry is a hot water crust pastry, the lid of which is placed 1cm or so lower than the edges of the pie. This recessed space is often topped with mashed potatoes, baked beans, brown gravy or even an egg. Very portable and quite tasty served hot or cold, they are the perfect fast food!
I served my Scottish Pies with mashed potatoes and Mushy Peas. Mushy Peas are a traditional side dish and are pretty much exactly what they sound like – peas which have been cooked until they are mushy. Anyone who is from the American South should be familiar with this vegetable preparation method. There is one difference though. The peas traditionally used for Mushy Peas are marrowfat peas, not the usual pea you would find in an American grocery store. Marrowfat peas are peas which have been allowed to dry naturally in the field rather than be harvested whilst young. The resulting peas are larger and have a much higher starch content than your regular pea. This gives them a smoother, creamier consistency which is desired in properly prepared Mushy Peas. Now, you can use a regular pea to make this dish, but if you’d like to try for a more authentic experience, use marrowfat peas for sure. You can find these type of peas in British specialty shops or simply on Amazon. I have supplied the link below. And do remember that since you are using dried peas, an overnight soak in salted water is required to soften the peas prior to cooking. Don’t forget to put them into soak before you head off to bed the night before!
I will admit, the hot water crust pastry used to make the pie casing is a bit of a challenge if you’ve never done it. Before you ever get started, you’ve got to go find some lard. I would’ve thought it would have been no problem. I started searching around my local grocery store and when I couldn’t find it, I asked one of the employees, ‘Sorry – could you tell me where the lard is?” The reply I got was “What is lard?”. Hmmmm…..so that is what we’ve come to…folks don’t know what lard is anymore! After a few different stops at a few different stores, I was able to get ahold of some. Lard is absolutely necessary in the hot water crust recipe as it is what makes that crust strong enough to stand up to the filling. Then, I had to actually shape the little pie cases while that pastry was warm. I used some mini cheesecake springform pans ( 4″ diameter pans – not the really really small cheesecake pans) that I had, but you can also shape them over a canning jar, ramekin, or even the bottom of a glass. This method is a bit more tricky as you have to thoroughly grease the item you are using for a mold and then once the pastry has hardened you have to gently tease it off of the mold. I tried each method and the springform pans are much, much easier. I have supplied an Amazon link for them below.
All that fiddly work was so worth it in the end! These pies were crisp, juicy savory perfection! And I think it was quite appropriate that while writing this post, I was also able to reminisce about our lovely time in Glasgow one year ago. Sure didn’t Robbie Burns write Auld Lange Syne in 1788. He definitely understood the pleasure in remembering the fun times past that we’ve shared with our friends and loved ones. I did intend to have this post on my blog for January 25th. However as Rabbie so knowingly said “The best laid schemes o’ mice an men, gang aft a-gley” (translated “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”). I can definitely say my plans did go a-gley, but here it is, a day late. I will say, you can enjoy Scottish Pies and Mushy Peas year round. And just think you’ll be so prepared for Burns Night next year! So remember to raise a wee dram on January 25th for Scotland’s National Poet on his birthday. And by all means, make yourself some of these indulgent Scottish pies. Don’t worry for your soul, you can repent tomorrow. (PS – Don’t forget to check back soon to see all the action from the second leg of this journey – The Shetland Viking Fire Festival Up Helly Aa!)
Scottish Pies with Mushy Peas
recipe from: Mother Earth News (for the Hot Water Pastry)
For the Pastry:
- 450 grams (3 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
- 1 egg, beaten and at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (200ml) water
- 80 grams (3/4 stick) butter
- 80 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) lard
For the Filling:
- 450 grams (1 lb.) minced lamb (I couldn’t find lamb and used ground beef)
- 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
- 3 -4 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1 Tablespoon flour
Preheat the oven to 375°F. First make the pastry.
Mix the flour, salt, and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, pour in the egg and toss a liberal covering of flour over the egg.
Place the water, butter, and lard into a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. When the liquid boils, pour it on to the flour, mixing with a spatula as you go.
When cool enough to handle, gently knead the pastry until all the egg streaks have gone and it is smooth.
Separate 1/4 of the pastry and set aside to use to make the pie lids. Make sure it remains warm.
Thoroughly grease the jelly jars, ramekins or mini cheesecake springform pans that you will be using to form the pastry cases.
Roll the pastry out to 1/4″ thickness. Measure the diameter of the cases you will be using and add twice the depth to the diameter. This will give you the appropriate size of the circle of pastry you will need to cut to fit your cases. The pastry cases should have sides approximately 2 – 21/2″ tall or can be taller as you prefer. Once you have finished shaping your pie shells, place them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so that they can firm up.
In the meantime, prepare your filling. Heat a small amount of oil in a large sauté pan until hot. Add the lamb or beef to the pan and fry in the oil over moderate to high heat for 2-3 minutes. If the meat has released a lot of grease, drain off at this point and reserve. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
Sautee the minced onion in 1 Tablespoon of the reserved drippings until it is soft. Add the minced garlic and sautée for 1 minute. Return the meat to the pan and mix to combine. Add the thyme leaves, nutmeg, beef broth, & Worcestershire sauce and stir until combined. Simmer for 1 -2 minutes and then add salt and pepper to taste. Finally sprinkle the 1 Tablespoon of flour over the meat mixture. Stir to combine and allow it to simmer for a few more minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Remove the pastry cases from the refrigerator. Gently slide them from the jelly jars or ramekins if you are using them. Place your cases onto a parchment lined baking sheet to be filled.
Divide the meat mixture between the pastry cases, pressing it down well.
Roll out the reserved pastry dough to form the lids. The lid should be cut using the diameter of the case as a guide. Paint the edges of the pastry case with a bit of egg wash and them fit the lids on top, crimping the edges with your fingers to seal the pies.
Brush pies with the remaining egg wash. Cut a hole in the lid of each pie to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve hot or cold as you prefer. If you are serving hot, consider topping the pies with mashed potatoes & gravy with a side of mushy peas!
- 8 ounces dried Marrowfat peas
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 200 ml boiling water
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- lemon zest to taste
- salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Scottish Pies with Mushy Peas:
Links for Planning your vacation in Glasgow, Scotland:
The Dakota Deluxe Hotel – Luxurious & stylish boutique hotel in a superb location in the city. Absolutely love our stay here!
Wee Adventours – Specializes in exclusive personal tour services for small tourist groups. Owner Frank Jones has over 10 year guiding experience and is passionate about his country. For all you Outlander fans, he does an amazing Outlander tour which will take you to many locations around Glasgow & its environs were the popular series has filmed. Frank is available for day tours or multi-day journeys. For a luxury custom experience, give him a call!
Restaurants & Pubs:
Òran Mór – Formerly the Kelvinside Parish Church, this is a truly unique live music venue which also boasts two bars, a restaurant, and a nightclub as well.
Fault & Blame – Sad to report, as of November 29, 2018 Fault & Blame has closed. It was a wonderful venue.
Slouch Bar – Our favorite pub in Glasgow thus far. Fantastic, comfortable pub serving homemade food every night until 2 a.m. Burgers, wings, pizzas as far as the eye can see. And one of the meats on their meat-lover’s pizza is haggis! You can’t pass that up!
Mother India Cafe – Glasgow has been voted Britain’s curry capital many times. So if you visit Glasgow you have to try out one of their many south asian restaurants. Glaswegians definitely like it hot, so if you do as well, you’ll be in good company. We asked several locals where their favorite place for a curry was and Mother India kept coming up. A stalwart for many years, Mother India has several locations in Glasgow. We went to the Cafe located just opposite the Kelvingrove Museum. It did not disappoint! The tapas sized portions were spectacularly spiced and the service impeccable. Definitely a must!
Things to See:
Glasgow Cathedral – A fine example of Scottish gothic architecture, with a breathtaking array of stained glass, this Cathedral is the oldest building in Glasgow
Necropolis – Approximately 50,000 folks are buried in the 37 acres of Glasgow’s Victorian city of the dead. It is located on a hill just adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral.
The Cloisters at the University of Glasgow – The Cloisters, also know as The Undercroft are a group of impressive archways and are an iconic part of the University of Glasgow. They have made appearances in many television shows and movies, such as Outlander. And although Harry Potter movies were not filmed at the University, certainly it was the inspiration for that School of Wizardry. Surrounded by the beautiful castle like architecture and soaring spires, you will feel like you have actually set foot on the campus of a real life Hogwarts!
Kelvingrove Art Museum & Gallery – Free to enter, The Kelvingrove boasts 22 themed galleries. You can find it all here – with over 8,000 items on display there is plenty to explore!
Doune Castle – You probably don’t know it, but you have likely seen Doune Castle many times. This 14th Century castle is featured in Monty Python & The Holy Grail, it was Winterfell, home of the Stark Clan, in Game of Thrones and is also Castle Leoch, home to Colm MacKenzie and his clan, in the Outlander television show. Highly recommend a visit here!
Loch Lomond – Located in The Trossachs National Park this picturesque (The Bonnie Shores o’ Loch Lomond) freshwater lake (or Loch) contains many islands and is surrounded by hill, including Ben Lomond. You will find many hiking and cycling paths there.
Glengoyne Whisky Distillery – Located in Dumgoyne, a short bit north of Glasgow (approx. 40 minute drive), this picture perfect whisky distillery has been in continuous operation since 1833. It is unique in that it produces Highland single malt whisky that is matured in the Lowlands. The Distillery is located on the border with its stills in the Highlands. The whisky is then sent across the road, to the Lowlands, to mature. They offer many fun & informative tours, classes and tastings.
Things to Do:
Blythswood Square Spa – Housed in the luxurious Blythswood Square Hotel, this 10,000 square foot facility boasts a thermal suite, two relaxation pools, nine treatment rooms, lounge and cafe. All right there in Glasgow’s city center.
Celtic Connections Music Festival – Annual music festival held every January in Glasgow since 1994. Features over 300 concerts, ceilidhs, talks, late night sessions and workshops. Whilst the focus is on Scottish music, you will also find international folk, roots and world music artists.