Blog - Food and drink

The perfect West Country roast beef with provenance

Food and drink

Buy direct from the farm for delicious grass-fed meats, pies and even food for your four-legged friend to enjoy on holiday or at home...

One of the questions we’re often asked at Helpful Holidays is where to buy really good local produce. We know our guests like to know where their food has come from. An award-winning farm and butchery that gets rave reviews every time is Pipers Farm, outside Cullompton, near Exeter in Devon. The farm is run by Peter, his wife Henri (Henrietta), their son Will and other son Ed, who works in London but still plays a part.

Their ethos is simple; it’s all about meat that’s been produced sustainably and in harmony with nature. Peter tells us: “We have Red Ruby cattle for our beef on the farm, not because it’s now fashionable, but because Red Rubies can digest the rough Devon grass and convert it into protein, producing healthy, high welfare food, simultaneously turning otherwise difficult land into an abundant rich landscape that becomes a haven for wildlife. Our ruminant animals eat only 100% pure natural grass and even our pigs and chickens eat a high proportion of grass in their diet.”
Founded in 1989 by Peter and Henri, the farm now delivers meat boxes nationwide by post, and from Bristol to Dartmouth in their own vans. They supply award-winning restaurants locally, such as The Pig Hotel, River Cottage and Gidleigh Park, and now work with 25 small-scale family farms in Devon and Somerset to source the meat and produce they sell.
The other mainstay of their ethos is ‘no waste’. Marketing and Retail Manager Zara Whitfield explains: “We really do use everything and suggest our customers do too. We have a ‘nose to tail’ policy and we are a zero to landfill business. So we use the whole carcass, making bones into stock, fat into dripping and offal into dog food.” Yes, you can even ensure that your dog has a healthy and sustainable diet with dog food made from pure Pipers Farm meat. They feed their farm dog, Fly, on it and she looks sleek, healthy and happy.

Zara comes from a local dairy farm and studied at Harper Adams, the agricultural university. She has also trained and now works her own four gun dogs, all spaniels. “It’s all about getting people interested in real food and that’s easy working at Pipers. I don’t need to bend anything I say about the products or how they are produced; the ethic here is strong, no compromise and no short-cuts.”
They sell everything, from all the cuts of beef and lamb to chickens and ducks, with sauces and marinades to go with them. Their handmade pies are delicious and ready to pop in the oven, a godsend when you’re on holiday, and you can buy your canine companion some healthy food too. So go online and order up some local food with terrific provenance that will be good for your body and soul. Pop one of their joints or chickens into the oven for divine aromas when you come back from that walk on the beach (via the pub?), open a bottle of red, relax and enjoy!

Here's Pipers Farm's expert guide to conjuring the perfectly roasted joint of beef from the oven - you can almost smell the rich aroma and taste the meltingly tender meat...
Classic Roast Topside of Beef
1. Remove your topside joint from the fridge and leave it for half an hour to come up to room temperature. This means it can start cooking as soon as you put it in the oven. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Heat a heavy based frying pan with a smattering of olive oil or beef dripping, until it’s shimmering hot. Sear the beef joint on all sides – including the ends – until sealed and well coloured.
3. Place the topside in a sturdy pan and roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes per kilo. When the time is up, test the internal temperature of the joint with a meat thermometer: for a rare joint, the target temperature is 45°C. 

4. Cover the joint to keep it warm and leave it to rest for around 20 minutes. During resting, the joint will continue to cook in its residual heat and when the temperature reaches 55°C it’ll be perfect for carving. Resting also allows the juices to redistribute themselves through the joint and means they won’t all be squished out when it comes to carving the meat.
5. Once rested, carve the topside thinly – it will be butter-soft and tender. Serve with traditional accompaniments as well as a rich gravy made from beef stock.
Beef topside is a classic and long-favoured roasting joint for very good reason. Coming from the inner thigh of the animal, topside is boned, rolled and tied and can be cut to various sizes, from modest to massive, depending on how many you’re feeding. Being a muscle that’s done some work, it has beautiful grain and bite, but is also lean and tender. These characteristics make it ideal for straightforward, uncomplicated roasting that lets the flavoursome meat be the star attraction. Many butchers will tie a layer of fat around their rolled topside, but Pipers prefer to celebrate this lean cut and leave it fat-free. As it’s been hung for four weeks to gently dry and mature, their Red Ruby beef won’t shrivel up as you cook it, so we don’t think it needs extra fat.

As well as its sheer deliciousness, topside is a Sunday lunch or celebration meal favourite because it really is easy to cook. Left pink and juicy in the middle, it makes an excellent leftover sandwich the next day. Like all red meat, topside hates being overcooked and is best served rare or medium rare to deliver succulence with tender texture and rich flavour. For the really perfect roast topside, just follow a few simple steps and, above all, resist the temptation to give it extra roasting time ‘for luck’!

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