Rhug Farm regeneration

Putting traditional British quality characteristics back into pies is Anthony Sterne who has learned from the Australians just what to do to produce a premium product from whole and natural ingredients.

"It's a little bit like the cricket and rugby really, says Anthony. "TheAussies learned from us and over the years made themselves top quality teams while we have let the skill and determination to produce the goods slip."

Similarly, the revived fortunes of both our cricket and rugby have paralleled the reintroduction of fine British pies by Anthony who formed Independent Foods at Melmerby near Ripon in Yorkshire two and half years ago.

Through contacts with the Vestey family he found himself work experience in Sydney. For his third year at Newcastle university where he was studying food marketing. He started in the packing department of the meat processor.

While in Australia Anthony was impressed by the taste, texture and pastry of the pies not the least those served at rugby matches where one might expect them to be utilitarian quality. Back in the UK and after his final year and graduation he joined Prêt A Manger in London and worked as a Development Chef at where ironically for a man whose family farm livestock and whose father had the Holmsterne meat processing business he spent much time developing new recipes for vegetarian sandwiches.

A year later he was back in Yorkshire determined to set up his own business making premium quality meat pies and nearly three years on the business is thriving with a fine balance of customers ranging from Waitrose which awarded the company the title of Best Small Producer of the Year for bakery products to independent retailers, restaurants and cafes.

Key selling proposition is that the pies are made from natural and mostly locally produced ingredients. Even the herbs are grown nearby. Free range eggs are produced at a poultry unit near Thirsk. The chuck steak comes from local farmer David Evans at Stokesley who has his Aberdeen Angus cattle killed at an abattoir also in Thirsk only a few miles from the farm gate. The lamb is bought at Skipton Market and processed by the auction marts processing offshoot CCM which supplies mostly boneless shoulder meat for the pies. The chicken is selected by Nidderdale Poultry.

Production line is modelled on a home kitchen although obviously with larger capacity ovens, mixers and dough rollers. The pie base is short crust pastry and the lid puff pastry. The pies are all 200g in foil base and some are over wrapped and branded with the company's "I's Pies" logo and sold fresh or frozen.

There are seven recipes in the current range starting with Yorkshire Angus Beef which has 40 per cent meat, beef stock, Yorkshire wheat flour, unsalted butter, egg glaze, natural sea salt, freshly ground pepper and corn starch. Balsamic Beef has 30 per cent meat and has onion, potato and balsamic vinegar. Chicken with Lemon and Herbs has milk and nutmeg as part of the recipe. Moroccan Lamb at 30 per cent lamb butter, carrots, chickpeas, extra virgin olive oil, fresh coriander, garlic added.

Anthony 's vegetarian experience in London has not gone to waste as he offers Spinach and Yorkshire Feta pies and "Vegetarian Pie of the Season" which has been Winter Vegetable and Cashew Nut . He also makes a "Pie of the Season" which for 25 January, the birthday of the bard Rabbie Burns, is Haggis, Neeps [swede] and Tatties [potato].

The pies retail around £2 each and Rustic Pure Butter pastry is offered as 500g of rough puff for £2.40.

Apart from the selection and preparation of ingredients, fundamental to the taste and flavour of the range are the freshly made beef and chicken stocks made from bones and herbs which are form the base for the sauces which gives each pie its "background " flavour, says Anthony. The beef and chicken stocks are popular as stand alone products and have a ready sale as "Anton's Amazing Saltless Stock" for £1.40 for 480mm.

Next step is to extend the range into summer type products to keep continuity of sales spread throughout the year. Sales are currently around 3000 pies per week.

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