STEAK pie for dinner at the New Year is one of Scotland’s best-loved traditions. 

Butchers just cannot make enough to satisfy the nation’s desire for the combination of puff pastry and stew.

But the origins of the tradition are unclear and contested. 

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As Bruce McColl, the member services manager at the Scottish Craft Butchers Association, explains, there are three main theories which explain why steak pie is to New Year in Scotland as turkey is to Christmas in the rest of the country. 

“One theory holds that steak pie became the national dish at New Years because January 1 wasn’t generally taken as a holiday so families were too busy to cook,” said Mr McColl. “They would buy steak pies to feed their families instead, this continues to this day as people want a delicious meal after the previous night’s celebrations.

“So it was essentially one of the first ready meals.”

Steak pie then could be the nation’s hangover cure on what is often the roughest morning of the year for many, after a night of celebratory drinking.

Mr McColl added: “The other train of thought is that people would have it as their main meal on Hogmanay before they started to drink.

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“It’s a good meal to be made in advance so in the West of Scotland a lot of people have it as their main meal before the bells. 

“Another theory is that because it is a big meal you can keep warm and serve to visitors throughout the day, as people come to the house.”

Steak pie, it seems, fits Scotland’s New Years celebrations perfectly - whether as a meal which can feed a number of visitors popping in throughout the day, soak up the booze from the night before or to line one’s stomach for a big night ahead.

For Tara McGregor, the owner of the Gorbals butchers Murray Quality Foods, the huge demand for steak pies she has seen this year is proof that people are turning back to local specialists in the wake of Covid-19. 

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The 40-year-old businesswoman said: “We are a small shop but in the run-up to New Year’s Day, we sell around 700-800 pies. 

“It is the epitome of what you get from a small business. The supermarkets can’t really replicate it.

“We got a lot of new customers over lockdown and a lot of people who hadn’t ever shopped at a butchers before.”

Donnie Shaw, the owner of Shaw’s Butchers in Barmulloch, thinks people were not abandoning tradition and that demand for steak pies was going up.

He said: “Last year, I made about 600 pounds of stew and I could have made about 200 more. 

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“I don’t think it will be going down this year either, people aren’t buying less. Whether that’s people just having everybody around or if they are making dinners and sending them to people who usually would be there for New Year’s Day. 

“A couple of women have come in for Christmas boxes to deliver to their families to get them a turkey dinner. 

“Some customers come in for a steak pie to take with them for family down south too, where they won’t do a steak pie on New Year’s Day. It’s a Scottish thing.”

He explained that 600 pounds of stew would do for 50 3lb pies, 150 1lb pies, with plenty left over, making over 300 pies in total. 

He and his team at the Wallacewell Road butchers get started making their pies in September. 

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But if Donnie’s team want to submit their product to the Scottish Craft Butchers for its annual steak pie prize, they will need to ensure they remove all the sausages from it.

For Tara, it has to be steak pie for her family on January 1, but the Northern-Ireland born butcher has hers without beef links.  

Mr McColl explained that while in the West of Scotland, it is traditional to have sausages in the stew with the beef, it is not the done thing on the East Coast.

“In our best steak pie competition, we require them to only have beef and not sausages in,” he said. 

“If it has sausages, it needs to go in the speciality pie section, even though in the West of Scotland they sell more steak and sausage pies.”