Last summer in Scotland, while doing research on a new book-in-progress (unrelated to food), I ate a bridie.  A Forfar Bridie, as the Scots cookbooks label it.

 

Scotland – this may surprise those who’ve never been – has a proud culinary tradition, stemming from its historic “Auld Alliance” with France.  Every meal I had during my visit was delicious.  But this bridie was more than that.  It was nostalgic.

 

There I was, alone, in the little town in Angus where my paternal ancestors lived and died long ago.  I’d just arrived.  I was tired and hungry — tired from not sleeping at all well the night before, then traveling for over four hours:  by bus to Waverley Station in the center of Edinburgh, then by train to Dundee, where I took a taxi to that port city’s bus depot and waited for the bus to Forfar.  In Forfar I changed to a local bus, which dropped me off in Kirriemuir’s town square.

 

Instead of succumbing to the longing to stretch out on the tartan-draped, queen-size bed in my spacious hotel room, I headed straight for the Tourist Information office on the ground floor of the Gateway to the Glens Museum in the center of this charming old town, where I spoke with a helpful woman who gave me some maps and brochures and pointed out a few places of interest within walking distance.

 

Then, since I’d been too rushed and nervous to eat anything all day, I was drawn to the local bakery – as pretty as a Parisian patisserie – where, after some difficult deliberation, I chose a Forfar Bridie.

 

One bite of this savory ground-meat-and-onion-filled puff-pastry turnover — Scotland’s improved-upon version of England’s Cornish pasty — flooded my mind with memories.  To please my father and honor his Scottish heritage, my mother had made bridies at home from time to time when I was a child.  I’d even tried making them myself at home in Taos, NM, in recent years.  This one, which I ate in hand while walking up a road called The Roods in my Scottish ancestors’ hometown, was the real thing, made at the source, the bakery clerk told me, in Forfar.

 

F. Marian McNeill’s cookbook The Scots Kitchen (1974) credits a Mr. Jolly, a baker in what was called the Back Wynd (now Queen Street) in Forfar, for creating bridies in the mid-nineteenth century.  McNeill’s recipe includes the following ingredients list, with no specific measurements:  steak, pepper, salt, suet, onions (optional), flour, and water.

 

My updated version uses purchased puff pastry sheets (Pepperidge Farm is a reliable brand), cut into 7- to 8-inch rounds (use a dessert plate as your guide).  Place a healthy mound of meat-and-onion filling (made with chopped sweet onions sautéed with lean ground beef in a bit of olive oil [no suet, please!] and seasoned liberally with pepper and salt and maybe a pinch of thyme) off-center on each pastry round.  Fold the other side of the pastry over (like an apple turnover), crimp the seams, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Brush the bridies’ tops with egg wash (made of egg yolk, whisked with a little water, and a pinch of salt), vent each with the tip of a sharp knife, and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

 

This will give you a taste of Scotland, close in deliciousness to the bridies from the source.