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Friday 25 January 2013

Gluten Free: Scotch Pie

Maybe it's all the Great Comic Relief Bake Off I've been watching or maybe it's the plummeting temperatures, but I set myself quite a challenge this week. Scotch Pies, the perfect cold weather food and a wee bit of nostalgic fare for me. I haven't eaten one for almost a decade and I've really missed them. In the same way that Cornish Pasties and pork pies are designed to be the kind of pastry you can eat on the move, Scotch Pies have a strong crust so you can hold it in one hand and munch your way to feeling toasty, wherever you are. In fact, go to any football stand on a rainy Saturday and you'll see hundreds of fans taking full advantage of the restorative powers this little pie holds. I'm highly unlikely to venture outside when the weather's crap but I still crave a Scotch Pie when I need to warm up.

Hot water pastry is terrifying, in theory, and I've watched enough cookery shows to know that it usually reduces the baker to a quivering ball on the floor. Oh yeah, and making it gluten free adds an extra list of things to go wrong (in particular, finding the right balance of flours). When it's hot it's very soft and difficult to mould, let it go cold and it becomes almost brittle - it just isn't worth contemplating, right? Wrong, actually, providing you cheat a little bit. Following a succession of expletives that would make a docker blush in my quest to create the elusive hot water pastry, I discovered (accidentally) that the pastry dough is still workable at room temperature. This is far less stressful than rushing to work with the pastry while it's still warm. My method would probably receive Paul Hollywood's angry stare, but I think I'd quite enjoy that. 

You'll need:

For the pastry
  • 100g lard
  • 300ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 25g potato flour (you can find some at Holland & Barrett or Tesco)
  • 50g cornflour
  • 375g gluten free plain flour mix, I used Dove's Farm
  • a couple o tbsp milk, or a beaten egg yolk, to glaze
For the filling
  • 1 smallish onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp white peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • tsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 100ml stock, or water
Make it!

Make the pastry
  • Mix the lard, boiling water and salt together in a jug, stir until the lard has melted and the salt has dissolved.
  • In a large bowl, sieve the three flours together and make a well in the middle. Pour the lard and water into the well and stir until everything comes together into a shiny dough. Do you remember silly putty? The dough will look a bit like that at this stage.
  • Rest the dough until it's cool enough to handle, room temperature is perfect (unless your kitchen is very cold). 
Make the filling
  • Heat a little oil in a pan and add the onions. Sauté them gently until they're lightly golden then leave to cool a little. If you're impatient like me, and whack the heat up make sure you keep stirring the onions to stop them from burning.
  • Put all the peppercorns and the salt in a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder.
  • Mix the cooled onions, spices, lamb and stock together in a bowl, making sure it's well combined - you don't want to find a lump of pepper in the middle of your pie!
Make the pies
  • Line four ramekins with cling film (my ramekins are 10cm diameter and about 5cm deep, if yours are smaller then you'll get more than four pies). 
  • Roll out ¾ of the dough between two sheets of cling film until about ½cm thick. Line the ramekins with the pastry making sure there aren't any cracks or holes in it.
  • Add enough of the lamb mixture to reach to about 1cm from the top of the pie, don't pack it down too much or the filling will be very dense.
  • Roll out the remaining ¼ of the pastry and cut out circles to fit the top of each pie. Brush around the rim of the pies with milk (or egg) and pop the lids on. Gently seal the edges and chill them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Cook the pies
  • Very carefully ease the pies from their ramekin mould (the cling film will make this easier) and place them on a baking tray.
  • Brush milk over the top of your pies to glaze them and poke holes in the top of each pie to let steam out.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190°C for 30-35 minutes, until the pies are golden brown at the edges and the pastry is crisp. 
  • Ideally, you'd serve these beauties with baked beans on top and a side serving of Glasgow salad (chips).

Please enjoy these pies responsibly, Scotland's not the heart attack capital of Europe without reason, you know.


  1. I'm SO impressed. I love hot water pastry but I'm always too scared to try it myself.

    1. I was scared too, especially after my initial failures and near-breakdown! I'm glad I tried it, though, it's not nearly as terrifying in practise.


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