“If this was America I’d be a Cowboy...which would possibly be a bit cooler!”

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Good Start!

It’s safe to assume that when the blog goes quiet we’re busy as hell, and vice versa. This month has been no exception and we are just about getting used to our new work rhythm.

We’d like to say that we thought everything through and considered the additional workload involved by starting to sell beef and pies at the same time as calving, but it appears that we didn't. We also underestimated the time we would spend driving around Kent and East Sussex, and how much time would be dedicated to marketing, although this has been extremely positive and we have attracted a lot of the right kind of attention.

Beef sales have been really encouraging with the first animal pretty much sold by pre-order before we got it back to the farm. The second has sold well so far and the feedback we have received from our customers has made it all worth the effort. All of our banging on about breed, diet, care and dry-ageing wasn't in vain and I think a lot of people in the area now understand what we are trying to do and that we genuinely offer something different...straight from the farm.

The Steer & Beer Pies have sold really well too with a lot of people coming back for more – we think this speaks for itself but also admit that it has as much to do with the quality of the beer and the the cooking as it does the meat.

We have agreed our first supply deal with a pub/restaurant, The Queens Head in Sedlescombe, which will be under new management from 5th April (hi, and good luck to Leigh and his team). They will be taking various cuts from us including roasting joints and pies and have a really good approach to the food side of their business and care a great deal about local producers. I have a sneaking suspicion they have a cracking recipe for Beef Bourguignon, so if this is up your street then it's worth dropping by for a bite to eat, plus they are also taking bookings for Easter Sunday and Monday roasts.

On the whole our new business venture has got off to a brilliant start and we are extremely grateful for all of the assistance we have received, not least from Nicci Gurr of Home Gurr’own and Will Neame from Old Dairy Brewery, the two other fine artisans involved with the pies. Thanks also to Graham and Miranda and “John the Butcher” from Falmer Palmer who are great people and really know their stuff.

We're now trying to refine our burger and beef sausage recipes ready for summer barbecues and reckon we've come up with something special on both counts. We'll keep you posted on this and also plan to come up with some special "BBQ packs" which we will have standing by and available at short notice for when you feel like knocking back some booze in the the summer sun and cooking up a feast.

Finally, we got a call from South East Farmer magazine who happened to like the fact that we decided to join forces with a chef and a brewery in order to create our pie and they are running an article about us in next month's edition. Here’s one of the shots they are going to use in the article (Will Neame on the left, Nicci Gurr in the middle and Mr Potato head on the end, so my niece Daisy tells me!)

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Someone popped in for a chop...

The French call it “Cote de Boef”, The Spanish call it “Chuleton” We don’t really have a name for it other than a “chop” but I suppose this makes it clear as to what it is.

Essentially, we are talking about the beef equivalent of a lamb or pork chop, which can be a cross cut through the loin or rib section of the animal - in this case the forerib (actually taken from the first five ribs) and therefore a massive rib eye steak on the bone - plenty for two people wanting to tuck in to a bit of serious beef, ie, for a couple of friends who popped by and wanted something special.

There’s only a limited amount of these that I can do per animal as most of the rib joints tend to be reserved for roasting early on, but if you fancy one, just drop me a line and I’ll try and sort it.

By the way, if you look closely at these pictures, you can see the great marbling I've been banging on about, plus the dark colour of the meat brought about by the ageing process!

To cook, it couldn’t be easier. First though, get it out of the fridge a couple of hours before you start – this gets it close to room temperature and means the meat doesn’t contract so much when it hits the pan which can give you a tougher end result. You then just season the chop liberally with salt and a few twists of pepper, sear it in a nearly smoking hot frying pan with a drizzle of oil for 3-4 minutes each side until browned (remembering to push the edge of fat down on the pan as well - all the way round, in order to brown and crisp it) and then ideally put it on a rack in an oven tray and slow roast it at about 110 degrees C for about 45 mins to an hour if you want it medium rare. Whatever you do, let it rest for at least 10 minutes when you take it out (cover it in foil if you like). This really makes a difference and is not just a poncy chef’s myth, it actually works and the meat will be far more tender and succulent than trying to eat it straight from the oven.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Box clever...

A lot of the last week has been spent buried in boxes, so to speak. It’s not something I thought about before I got the beef business going, but now I have no choice. Boxes are everywhere. Everything I have ordered, from blue elastoplasts to electric scales, comes in boxes. White butcher’s coats come in boxes, probe thermometers come in boxes, as do plastic bags and labels - even shipping boxes come in boxes. I even have big, toughened polystyrene boxes which were delivered in even bigger boxes, which go in the back of my pick-up to hold smaller boxes for my deliveries. I have never seen so many bloody boxes! So imagine my delight when I find no less than four emails in my “inbox” over the weekend asking me if I do a beef selection ”box”!?!

It is a fair question, and as I differ slightly from other producers by using the majority of the stewing cuts of beef for making the pies, I didn’t feel the need to coerce customers into having to only buy selection boxes. It’s clear now that quite a few people would actually prefer to purchase their beef in this way, not only because of the discount, but also because they can experiment a bit and see how the different cuts compare. So, in addition to still offering customers as much or as little of anything they want, I have come up with three introductory box options. All weights are approximate, and the final price may vary by a few pence but will always be a function of the exact weight – most importantly, all prices have been discounted by 10%.

The Baby box - £25.00  

  • 2 X 8oz/280g Rump Steaks 
  • 1 x 1 Kilo Topside Roasting Joint 
  • 500g Stewing Beef 
  • 500g Mince 

The Midi box - £50 

  • 2 x 8oz/280g Sirloin Steaks 
  • 2 x 8oz/280g Rump Steaks 
  • 1 x 2 kilo Topside Roasting Joint 
  • 600g Pack of Beef Shin for stewing/casseroles (specify sliced with bone as in “Osso Buco”, or diced) 
  • 600g Pack of Mince 

The Big box - £100 

  • 4 x 10oz/350g Sirloin Steaks 
  • 1 x 2 kilo Rolled Sirloin Roasting Joint
Then either...
  • 2 x 750g Packs of Beef Shin for stewing/casseroles (specify sliced with bone as in “Osso Buco”, or diced)
  • 2 x 750g Packs of mince
  • 1 x 750g piece of fillet steak

Collection & Delivery 

If you're passing you can pop in to collect (12-2pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday). I can also deliver free within a 10 mile radius of Robertsbridge - delivery days are Tuesday and Friday. If you live outside of the 10 miles there will be a small additional charge depending on postcode – much further and I will send by courier in a “chiller-pack” to anywhere in England for an additional £7.75, usually shipped next day.

If you are interested in any of these offers please let me know asap at orders@scalandsfarm.co.uk as there are a limited amount of boxes I can offer due to availability.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Apart from just selling our beef, I really wanted to come up with something else a bit different. Most importantly, something carefully created to be delicious as opposed to just throwing stuff together and hoping for the best.

Reinventing the wheel can't be done. Reinventing "the pie", or at least giving it a re-vamp, is possible. Particularly if you really think about every single component involved in a perfect pie and try to use the very best natural ingredients possible. Do this whilst teaming up with other local artisan producers, pooling together quality, experience and knowledge and you might just come up with something special - a sort of artisan alliance. We think this kind of cooperation is key to small producers staying in the game in rural areas, particularly when faced with so much competition from larger more established brands and people's buying habits.

There are some crappy pies out there, there are a lot of very average pies out there but there are also some very good ones, so this was not going to be easy. So I got together with Nicci Gurr, a friend who runs her own high-end catering business, Home Gurr'own, to see what we could come up with together. (Nicci has a massive amount of experience cooking in restaurants all over the world, including working with the Roux Brothers in London).

Early on in the process we decided to really think about what we wanted from every part of the pie, particularly the flavour of the gravy, and knew that we would have to use a particular style of beer, one which was superior in quality but most importantly a beer that was from a local brewery. So we had a word with Old Dairy Brewery
 in Rolvenden and asked them if we could use their Silver Top Stout in our filling. Old Dairy are a small, skilled and innovative team of young brewers who make distinctly different real ales. We decided to use their beer because in our view it gives a much richer flavour to the overall filling and is not as bitter as some of the mainstream stouts available - they didn’t hesitate in putting their name to our pie once they had all tasted it!

The pastry was a bit of a no-brainer. Nicci had always sworn by using a tried and tested recipe for an all-butter shortcrust during her career. Flour-salt-butter, plus a drizzle of water – that’s it. The result being rich, buttery, crispy and crumbly - exactly what pastry should be. The gravy is made from the beer as well as real stock made from the beef bones. This is combined with our beautiful dry-aged beef, plus some herbs, salt and pepper and that’s just about it. We let the quality of the ingredients do the work for us during a long, slow cook to get everything succulent and tender.

Finally, because we think we have created something truly unique, we wanted to come up with a unique name, so we chose “Steer & Beer”. Think of it
 like a “Steak & Ale” pie, but better... 

The pies will be ready from the middle of March, so if you fancy a stonker of a pie get in touch - you can pre order - delivery available! 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

“Any of us would kill a cow rather than not have beef”

At the risk of inviting a tirade of abuse for encouraging people to impulsively take a chainsaw to a cow and receiving advice on nutrition, health and my colon from those out there who don’t chose to eat meat (Katie, my girlfriend included) I thought I would kick-off my first blog for nearly three months with a bold quote from Samuel Johnson. This cannot be taken literally (although in theory we should all be prepared to do this in order to eat any part of an animal, to be fair) however, it does suggest that the eating of beef has for a few centuries at least, been an institution in Britain.

British Beef, as we all know, is fantastic. Wrong! (If I try to go into too much detail here I’ll bore you, bore myself, and probably start ranting on about decay in society, falling standards of education and mass cloning...all of which are of course intrinsically linked). So I won’t. I’ll just mention that the legacy of measures taken by the government at the time of the BSE outbreak in the nineties is still with us and its effects have had a detrimental hand in the rearing of cattle as far as the eating quality of the final product is concerned. In addition, supermarket practice really hasn’t helped at all. They seem to be more interested in creating “shelf-life” than selling produce at its prime. This means that whilst supermarket meat may look how we “think” it should, it rarely delivers on flavour and texture despite being called the “finest” and being packaged in a black plastic tray with a picture of a farmer and a cow on the front.

Adhering to the best possible practices to produce high quality beef is hard for all farmers because quality ultimately translates into more cost. If you want to give animals the best possible diet and give them more than enough space and keep them alive for longer (age + grass = flavour) then you are basically going to have to shell out more money – plus, margins are being further squeezed at every level given that the prices of stock, feed, bedding and fuel etc continue to rise. So, what can you do as a farmer if you are not prepared to compromise on quality to reduce your costs? One way is to cut out the middle man...

I can now lead seamlessly into what the hell I have been up to for the past couple of months...

I have been equipping some space on the farm for the preparation, cold storage and sale of our beautiful beef. The result being that from about the 1st March we will be in a position to sell our produce locally by collection or delivery (free within 10 miles!) to anybody out there who wants some, be it a single steak or a portion of mince up to a massive chunk of roasting joint or a selection box.

                            The prep room under construction

Remember, this is not ordinary beef. The process of dry-aging for 4 weeks added to the grass-rich diet enjoyed by these animals translates into something quite unique which you will struggle to find elsewhere, especially as our animals are South Devon. Orders are being taken from hereon, so if you want your pick of the choice cuts get in touch on 01580 880 414.

                                                        The chiller

We are also in the process of developing our soon to be published website scalandsfarm.co.uk where you can learn everything you’ll need to know should you be interested in our produce.

I’ll keep you up to date with how things are going whenever I get the chance and if any of you have any questions or clever ideas, interesting contacts, or orders please do not hesitate to get in touch by phone or at jeremy@scalandsfarm.co.uk.

Friday, 11 November 2011

My name is...

Well done to Alec Roxburgh for his winning suggestion. Thanks to him, this pedigree calf has been named after the epic ice-cream treat introduced into the market by Walls (now Unilever) back in the early eighties and still available at Iceland and Asdarr in a range of radioactive colours and flavours! (Yes I know its quite tasty, in a "dirty-secret" kind of way, but it doesn't really contain any dairy products, just a load of shite and E numbers - the complete opposite to its namesake here!!!)

Commiserations and thanks for the other suggestions.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Where the f**k did that come from!?!

Life is full of surprises, as the cliché goes. However prepared and organised I may seem on here, the truth is that sometimes as with all of us, things come out of the blue, or out of a cow’s vagina in this case, in the form of a calf. On Sunday morning I saw something rather odd in the top yard. I wiped my eyes and tried to home in on what I thought I saw, and indeed, a randy little bull calf was “taking advantage” of a fresh born little calf as it attempted to suckle from its mother. Naturally it collapsed as it was barely able to take its own weight, let alone the full weight its pervy brother rutting away. My first, flash-thought when I saw all this was that it was actually a co-joined mutation having a fit, so I was actually pleased how things turned out. Nature is a strange thing. Of course we separated the new calf and its mother and they are out of danger now.

We have a female calf to name therefore – so get naming! All suggestions welcome, beginning with “V”. (See the list of names we already have in the “Name That Calf” blog posted on 8th August). I wasn’t expecting another calf quite so early, but as we had a calf in December last year, it makes sense. A cow can come back “on heat” at around seven weeks after giving birth and has the same gestation period as human cows and so if you “do the math” it makes sense, ie, last year’s calf was born on 20th December, seven weeks later is early Feb – add 9 months and here we are.


The more attentive among you may have worked out that the animals are now inside and separated across various yards and spaces. We did this last Thursday and Friday as we were aware that the weather was likely to break and that the ground was already getting slushy. This is to be avoided, as trampling by hefty animals damages the grass roots and creates an uneven surface hindering re-growth. Given that the nutritional value of the sparse remaining grass is particularly low at this time of year, the decision was made. We had fed the animals with a few bales of silage in the fields but the fields were beginning to resemble a quagmire. This is because most of the Weald consists of a deep top layer of clay and unlike sandstone or chalky soil it doesn’t drain so well. The only problem with animals being inside is that its too warm. I say this because these warm, damp, still days we are experiencing are the perfect conditions in which pneumonia can thrive. It is a real threat, so we need to be all the more attentive and ensure that the yards are as clean, dry and muck free as possible. Any sign of a listless animal and we'll call the vet immediately. I just bloody hope it gets cold, pronto!

We always wean the calves at the same time as bringing them in. Its easier and less stressful all round. So, we now have 4 main yards and two separated areas plus a cow and new calf in a separate pen and a calf with a pulled rear leg muscle in another pen to ensure it doesn’t get bullied and is able to get to its feed. Here’s what we have:

Yard 1 - 14 cows + one calf (Vegas, the randy little sod!) and one bull, Robin

Yard 2 – 16 recently weaned calves

Yard 3 – 12 cows + one bull, Monarch

Yard 4 – 8 heifers from last year, approx 20 months old

Straw Pen – 4 steers/bullocks from last year

Crush Pen – cow + newborn

Box 3 – injured heifer calf

Bull Pen – A young bull, soon off to market + a steer to keep him company

Total = 60

I suppose I did this list to give you a bit of an idea of what we are dealing with really. Also, each yard and pen has different feeding requirements and each needs to be bedded up with straw and scraped out by the feed racks most days, so there’s no blanket formula for feeding etc and its pretty time-consuming. Yards 1 and 2 are full of, hopefully, in-calf cows and so need to be closely monitored as well. If last Sunday was anything to go by, I’ve got my work cut out!