We have just received this lovely email from Stephen Tarling of Little Cottage.

These are tough times in many ways – I’ve been mostly under lockdown and my single small “Little Cottage” holiday let business has completely disappeared for the duration.

So I must thank you wholeheartedly for what I hope is the first of many more really excellent meals based around meat from Pete Nicholls of Hatchett Herd of Pedigree Dexters – which you had kindly earmarked for me after I pestered you; and Caroline at Pilley Community Shop kindly kept for me.  Like many of us I don’t go out so much nowadays, so I’m delighted that you made it so worth my while.

Following my virtual meeting I was later than hoped getting to Pilley, and delighted to see a healthy queue (it’s great to chat to some old friends!).  I  collected the brisket and steaks you’d kindly selected and added some of your mince (and a bunch of other bits as well – Pilley Community Shop really is a great New Forest Marque supporter).

You weren’t to know, but the brisket joint fitted perfectly into the largest Le Cruset we have.  My partner, Anita, is a great cook (her mother was a professional).  Today has partly been torture for me: a slow cooked Boeuf en Daube with the brisket (browned off in a little ghee), onions, tomatoes, olives, thyme from our garden – plus other secret ingredients, has been in the simmering oven of our Aga all day long – delicious cooking smells wafting through our cottage!

WOW: it was worth the wait. That really is the most tasty yet soft beef ever – the bit of fat in the joint adds so much to the flavour, and the long slow cook leaves the meat as tender as anyone would want.  Add roast potatoes and parsnip and broccoli – and my own effort was opening a good value bottle of Cline Zinfandel (thanks Priory Wines in Lymington – although if it’s a white or sparkling we want we’re usually looking to a Marlings of Sway wine).

The brisket is exceptionally good value because it was a really good sized joint but from the massive cooking pot Anita has set aside 4 more double portions of the Boeuf en Daube to go into the freezer – so 10 plates, all with a really good portion of meat, from the one modestly priced joint.

The steak looked excellent, but sadly for me it went into the freezer and is still there – so I don’t think that’s going to be on the menu tomorrow – but that does give me something else to look forward to…   And a spicy mince and veg mix with baked potato will be a good day as well…

We’re so lucky having so much superb meat available locally:  Danestream Farm is just round the corner from us and has excellent chicken;  as well as game in season, and Sway Butchers is close by – top for value-added meat meals;  the ‘Pinch of Salt’ charcuterie is available from Bartletts in New Milton; and  Beaulieu Organic Farm Shop was previously a favourite or ours a few years ago but is further away; and the Zwartbles lamb from Lisa’s larder in Keyhaven is great; and then also further away Andrew Parry-Norton and Pondhead produce excellent meats; and as shops go Setley Ridge, and further away Hockeys do really well.

But for the very best quality and value beef there’s only one supplier – and I’m dropping a line to them right now – and my best local outlet is Pilley Community Shop.

So thanks again for both the superb Hatchett Dexter meat and also for taking the time to select and set aside exactly what we wanted.  We’ll be back for more…

Cheers, Stephen