when i was in scotland with scotch beef a few weeks back i visited hardiesmill place in the borders, owned by alison tuke and her husband robin, where they farm 100% prime aberdeen angus and produce the most wonderful steaks and charcuterie.
at hardiesmill they believe in breeding beef the traditional way – on grass in the summer and hay, silage and straw in the winter – and adhere to the age-old adage that the ‘happier’ the cow the better the quality of meat. every step of the production chain is carefully managed and quality controlled – including using special quality meat scotland certified transporters for their cows, as just one harsh turn in a vehicle can seriously stress the cow and ultimately ruin the flavour of their meat.
(as a complete aside; being at hardiesmill reminded me of the wonderful adventures of ‘happy cow’ elsie bovary in holy cow. if you’ve not read the book you absolutely must – so. much. fun!)
so why is aberdeen angus so popular? well, it strikes the best balance between fat, lean and bone.
however, we also learnt that most of the beef and beef products you can buy in british supermarkets or restaurants marked as ‘aberdeen angus’ are not actually 100% pure bred aberdeen angus at all. apparently beef can still be called aberdeen angus even if just a parent of that animal was of the breed, or even its grandparents – supermarket angus may be as low as 50% aberdeen angus, 50% other breeds, which affects the flavour of the meat, particularly of the fat.
you can find some great information on what to look out for in your aberdeen angus meat here.
and just what is the difference between scotch beef and scottish beef i hear you ask? (trust me, we all asked the same).
well, scotch beef is sourced from selected scottish farms (like hardiesmill) that adopt best practice regarding animal welfare and natural production methods, while scottish beef is ordinary beef from any cattle that have been born, reared and processed in scotland, without quality guarantees.
after our tour of the farm it was time to get down to the tasting!
first up, the delicious range of specialist smoked meats and cured meats from tombuie smokehouse, including whisky-infused smoked venison, sweet-cured beef, and award-winning carpaccio-cut smoked beef. every batch is lovingly smoked or cured on the farm, and watched over for quality, flavour, texture and consistency. this consistent attention to detail really does shines through in the subtle smokiness and melt-in-the-mouth experience of their charcuterie, which is definitely some of the very best i’ve ever tasted.
we then tasted a selection of prime steak cuts, cooked by alison, to help explain the difference between them, from the more familiar fillet and rump to the more unusual bavette, onglet and featherblade. if you’ve ever been confused by all the options on a restaurant menu (like me!) then hardiesmill have a very handy glossary of beef cuts on their website which i’d recommend reading, and a fab diagram of popular cuts here.
cue lots of shiny, happy faces amongst the blogging gals on the trip.. :)
thanks so much to alison & robin for such a wonderful day and the delicious aberdeen angus tasting session!
i was hosted in edinburgh as a guest of scotch beef and scotch lamb. all views my own.