Steak Pie Judging at FVC
FVC chefs help judge the Best Steak Pie in Scotland
It's the eagerly anticipated traditional centrepiece of every true Scot's New Year dining table - and the dish that every butcher strives to perfect.
Now thanks to Forth Valley College chef judges – Ype Vanderschaaf, George Scott, Simon Calley and Martin Rodgers - Scotland's ultimate steak pie has been tracked down to the Prime Cuts Butchers in the Ayrshire town of Coylton.
The evaluations were held at Forth Valley College’s Stirling Campus last month (August) with more than 280 pies from throughout the country were tested for appearance, flavour, filling and appeal across three categories - Traditional Steak Pie, Speciality Steak Pie and Mince Round.
The panel of judges also included experts, food writers and interested consumers and the event is organised by the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders in conjunction with John Scott Meat Ltd and William Sword Ltd.
Prime Cuts Butchers has been hailed the maker of the best Traditional Steak Pie in Scotland after their tasty meaty pastry lifted coveted Diamond status in the Scottish Craft Butchers Awards 2019.
And delighted owner John Kennedy (49) said it was the belief that the family firm makes the best in the country that prompted him to enter the nationwide awards for the very first time.
"I knew we made something special," he said, "but to lift the top accolade with our first ever entry is just fantastic - we're over the moon!"
Ype Vanderschaaf, Forth Valley College Chef Manager, said: “It was a pleasure for myself, George, Simon and Martin to take part in judging the steak pie competition at our Stirling Campus. We were honoured to be asked and had a tasty time testing Scotland’s best rated steak pies. All the pies were of a very high standard, but the winner stood out above them all by a unanimous decision. Congratulations to them.”
John, who heads a chain of four Prime Cuts Butchers shops in south Ayrshire, revealed the recipe for his award-winning pie is carried in his head since he was taught how to "create perfection" at the hands of his old mentor when he was just 18-years-old.
"Each of our other Prime Cuts shops in Ayr, Mauchline and Cumnock make their own pies to that same recipe," said John, "but we obviously have that special magic touch here at Coylton."
John comes from local farming stock and it was on the family farm that he learned the value of prime beef.
"There is nowhere to hide with a steak pie," he said. "If you don't use the very best of beef, you won't get the best possible pie. We use 100 per cent cubed prime Aberdeen Angus Cross shoulder steak and delicious gravy topped with an uncooked puff pastry lid," explained John. "Unlike many butchers, we sell our steak pies unfired as the first baking of the pastry is always the best."
Prime Cuts make and sell upwards of 800 steak pies every week but that demand soars to around 6,000 in the run-up to New Year.
"It's the feast everyone looks forward to at New Year - it's part of our Scottish tradition," said John. "Many believe it's the ideal hangover cure while others claim it's an easy bake for the busy people at a hectic time of year.
"Either way, it's a key part of our business and to be able to say we make the best in Scotland is just terrific. It's a reward for all of us for the years of hard work that the team has put in and a salute to a 30-year-old recipe that's just topped the lot!"
Prime Cuts Butchers, Coylton, lifted the South West of Scotland Regional Champion title before going on to secure the national prize.
Gordon King, Executive Manager of Scottish Craft Butchers, confirmed Prime Cuts' pie as "outstanding.
"We had nearly 100 traditional steak pies entered in the bi-ennial awards from all across Scotland," he said. "That's a lot of pies for the judges to taste but there was definitely something special about the winner that marked it out for the 2019/20 title.
"It was full, flavoursome, high quality meat and gravy, scrumptious golden flaky pastry and that indefinable 'something' that marked it out as the best in Scotland.
"A steak pie is a staple for all Scottish butchers - it's traditional fare and a favourite of customers everywhere. But making the perfect pie is what they all strive for and this year it's John Kennedy and his team that lead the field."
The other three Prime Cuts shops all lifted a Gold Award for their traditional steak pies. Coylton and Mauchline also earned a Gold Award for their mince rounds, while Ayr and Cumnock secured a Silver.