By Karrie Gillett
MORE than 70 butchers and bakers are battling it out to be crowned the world’s top pie maker.
The hotly contested title of World Scotch Pie Champion has never gone outside Scotland and this year sees a record-breaking 74 entries up for the gong.
A total of 17 judges made up of master butchers and bakers will decide which savoury treat is the tastiest in the world.
And some less traditional entries include a healthy alternative called S-kipper packed with kipper, eggs, spring onions and cottage cheese from Tom Courts of Cowdenbeath.
Alan Stuart, who founded the competition 10 years ago, said the healthy category showed that the pie can move with the times.
Mr Stuart, of Stuarts of Buckhaven, said: “While we are never going to be able to claim that pies are healthy foods, we do believe that if they are well made using Scotch beef and quality ingredients they can play a part in a balanced diet.
“The butchers and the bakers are trying to create a healthier product and we have some interesting entries including a Pentalthon Pie in a wholemeal pastry.”
But he insisted that the Scotch Pie category was the most coveted title of the lot.
And Mr Stuart – whose son Keith was crowned champion in 2007 – claimed that winning the contest can triple turnover for a business.
He said: “It really is massively competitive as it makes a significant boost to your sales and staff morale as they know they are making the best pies in the world.
“The first winner was making 800 pies a week before he won the contest which rose to 4,000 per week afterwards.
“Winning really is very good for a business so the competition is healthy and the pies aren’t so bad either.”
The judging is taking place at Carnegie College in Dunfermline with only one entry coming across the border from Northumberland-based baker Graeme Trotter.
Robert Ross, chairman of the judges, doesn’t get to taste-test the pies until they have been whittled down to a shortlist of six.
Mr Ross said: “Sometimes there can be a deadlock between judges with pies scoring exactly the same points and I have to decide which one deserves the title more.
“The secret to the best pie is one that looks appetising in a crisp shell with a soft meat content. It has to have a savoury, meaty smell and most importantly taste outstanding with a peppery, moist texture.
“If a baker or butcher can get these three things right then he is going to be on that shortlist.”
A traditional Scotch Pie is made up of minced beef or lamb, breadcrumbs, water, seasoning and a pastry shell of flour, lard, salt and water.
One butcher hoping to make an impact on the competition this year is 20-year-old Graham Lawson from John Lawson Butchers in West Lothian.
The Uphall-based butcher has entered the Scotch Pie contest alongside a specially produced festive effort of Turkey and Cranberry pie.
He said: “Getting an award is something to differentiate you in the industry and give you a bit of recognition for your work.
“Customers see an award-winning pie and they want to try it and we take a lot of pride in making pies good enough to be in the running for this prestigious prize.”
The winning entry will be announced on November 27 with 46 pies coming from butchers and 31 received from bakers.