Warwickshire Meat & Pies

PUBLISHED: 13:15 30 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:09 20 February 2013

Allen beef and guinness pie

Allen beef and guinness pie

Warwickshire's lush pasture and a long history of quality meat production means that the county is renowned for good meat and meat products.

Warwickshire's lush pasture and a long history of quality meat production means that the county is renowned for good meat and meat products.

Thanks to the recent campaigns by TV chefs Hugh Fearnley-
Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, our awareness of meat quality and provenance has grown dramatically. More people are becoming concerned about the welfare of animals bred for food, while discovering that good animal husbandry also often ensures an unrivalled depth of flavour.

Fortunately, our lush Warwickshire pastureland and a history of quality meat production has led to succulent cuts of meat and delicious pies that are both local and traceable.

Leamington Spa - based Aubrey Allen has been supplying Warwickshire with meat and meat products since 1933. Peter Allen, whose father Aubrey started the business after serving an apprenticeship with a Coventry butcher, is proud of his heritage and keen to preserve the simple, oldfashioned values which make his business thrive. Aubrey Allen carefully select and inspect all of their suppliers and were Winner of the 2008 Meat Buyer of the Year for Ethical Sourcing and Animal Welfare. All very much appreciated by customers including Rick Stein, Raymond Blanc and more locally, Simon Haigh of Mallory Court.
Peter is also proud to produce quality, traditional meat products.

Many Aubrey Allen pies and sausages are made to recipes over 75 years old and customers notice the difference compared to modern, mass-produced food. The 'Leamington Royal' sausage recipe is over 100 years old, while the Steak and Kidney Pie is made to an old traditional Warwickshire recipe - all from a time when sausages and pies were a treat, made with properly reared meat and flavoured with natural herbs and spices, without additives. Peter says: "What we've tried to do is revive that
and make it into something special." Pies are very much a Midlands thing - our equivalent of the Cornish pasty, as during the Industrial Revolution the shortcrust pastry pie allowed the increasing numbers of men working away from home to transport their food to work. Luckily for us, this led to the hand-raised pies that are still cooked to traditional recipes by Aubrey Allen today.

In Peter's view, Warwickshire offers: "good heavy land, which grows good grass - a perfect beef farming area." Unfortunately over the last 30 years a lot of our farmers
have found beef farming less profitable than growing EECincentivised crops but with the changes to European subsidy law due in 2015, Peter says that he is already finding that some farmers "are getting their thinking caps on and are beginning to go back into mixed farming." One enterprising farming family has not only moved from arable to mixed farming but produced awardwinning pies in the process. Kay and Nelson Hollinshead farm 220 acres near Atherstone and began selling pies made by Nelson's Mum in the farmhouse kitchen along with their vegetables at farmers' markets.

Realising that there was a big demand for quality meat pies, they set up 19 Gales and began rearing their own free-range cattle and pigs. Thanks to the appetite for pies in Warwickshire, they now have two bakeries on the farm and 200 saddleback pigs roam in their woods. Kay says: "People in Warwickshire want good quality food, they like farmers' markets and like supporting farmers. They want to know where the meat's come from and how long it's been matured." The local heavy clay soil makes ideal grazing pasture, and the Hollinsheads sow a mixture of different grasses and clover to ensure that the cattle are getting all the nutrients they need. They hang the meat for two to three weeks, ensuring tender meat for the steak and kidney pies that are popular comfort food during the winter.

Any pie ingredients that the Hollinshead's don't produce often come from their neighbours. Next door is a dairy farmer who provides the milk, there are free range eggs
from up the road - a thriving little farming community in fact. And if anybody is having a party they know where to get their food from. 19 Gales will deliver to online orders
and even have people turning up with their own pie dishes to be filled for parties. They also do pig roasts, and can bake cakes and biscuits for dessert. It's been a busy time since commercial pie-making started in 2000, but this family are still keen to improve their business - Kay says that they plan to concentrate on breeding cattle now and are introducing some Limousin/Hereford Cross as they think the meat will be even better quality.

Another family committed to providing quality meat are the
Adlingtons of Balsall Common who have been providing Christmas turkeys since the 1950s. Rod Adlington who now runs the business says that his family started rearing Christmas turkeys as a hobby. A lot has changed within the business since the early days of Christmas turkeys - now Adlingtons have their own slaughterhouse, a state of the art cook and smoke facility and provide cooked and smoked natural turkey and chicken products in addition to turkey farming. Yet Rod is proud to say: "Nothing has changed since the 1950s in the way that the turkeys are reared. They're barn reared and free range, then they're all hung after slaughter which is important."

All of the raw ingredients have full traceability and Rod says that to produce tasty, succulent meat they've learnt from their years of farming, "that to produce a good eating meat product one needs a high welfare animal and this means from the egg all the way through its life." David Tompkins of Lighthorne Lamb agrees that traceability is important - his lamb is uniquely reared, butchered and packed at Home Farm, Lighthorne. The lambs are carefully selected on grade and weight, ensuring tender meat. An
abattoir is used at nearby Kenilworth so the animals aren't stressed. Lighthorne lamb is slowly reared outside and David says that the Warwickshire landscape is ideal - the
mix of sun and rain gives the lambs lush Spring grass to graze on. He rotates the grassland, ploughing it up and re-seeding every three years so that there's always young grass providing the best proteins.

Breeding is important too - David finds that Texel rams and Suffolk cross mule ewes produce the best grade of lamb. No wonder that top local chefs from restaurants such as Queen's Restaurant in Leamington Spa, Mallory Court and The Butchers Arms at Priors Hardwick are fans of Lighthorne Lamb. But then with the excellent range of meats and pies produced across Warwickshire it's not a difficult area in which to minimise food miles and maximise


Aubrey Allen, 108 Warwick Street, Leamington Spa Tel: 01926 311208

Adlington's Tel: 01676 532681

19 Gales, Nightingales Farm, Bentley, Atherstone CV9 2JR Tel: 01827 716551

Lighthorne Lamb, Tel: 01926 650160

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