Roaming Roosters bring Lancashire produce to the Christmas dinner table
- Credit: Archant
Looking for the perfect Christmas dinner? The Mellin family have the best ingredients. Emma Mayoh reports
‘I hate Christmas,’ jokes Simon Mellin as he walks through the Olde Spot Bistro at Roaming Roosters. ‘It is an absolutely crazy time for us. By the time Christmas Day comes around, we’re all ready for a rest.’
In fact, Simon cannot wait to spend this festive period with his family. But there is no denying this is a hectic time for the Mellin family who run Roaming Roosters in Higham.
On an average week they get 2,000 people through the door as well as 8,000 online customers. But during Christmas this figure will at least double with more than 4,000 visiting the farm shop and bistro.
As well as giving visitors a great experience – you can look at the animals on the farm - they also spend the months leading up to Christmas preparing all of the best food to grace dinner tables across the country. They rear and keep free range turkeys – they have 60 on site but are rearing another 650. They also have chickens and rare breed Gloucester Old Spot pigs. Martin Lee, who runs the neighbouring farm and Richard Clews, in Blacko, rear their grass -fed beef.
Simon said: ‘We actually start planning for Christmas around March. It is really important for us to be organised. We’re really lucky to have farmers like Martin and Richard, who are also family friends. Their knowledge and expertise mean we get fantastic products.’
Butchery is in the Mellin genes. Simon’s dad, Geoff, first worked at a handful of butcher’s as a young man. But he then took over the running of a shop, Mellin’s, in Nelson with his father, Joseph.
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‘My dad asked me if I could run the shop,’ said Geoff, 56. ‘I was only 20. It all happened very quickly. And it was busy all of the time. We worked long days and had lots of regular customers.
‘We had the site at Higham and we were looking for somewhere else to set up. Nelson wasn’t getting the footfall it had previously had and we wanted to make a move. We closed the shop in Nelson and moved here.’
Geoff, now farm manager, looks after the animals on site as well as doing deliveries and many other tasks. Simon runs Roaming Roosters, along with his brother Nick, who looks after Grassroots, the meat wholesale side of the business. This is based in nearby Altham and it provides top quality produce to businesses including the Seafood Pub Company and national gourmet grocery service, Hello Fresh.
It is a change for 29-year-old Simon who once worked as an engineer in motorsport for GT Racing. He spent his career travelling the globe but he wanted to come home. Unfortunately, at the time, there was no job available so he started an online ordering service, whiuch took off. The Nelson butcher’s closed down and Roaming Roosters opened in 2012.
Simon said: ‘I’d grown up in my dad’s butcher’s shop. My brother Nick and I had knives in our hands when we were three. Nick went into the family business but my Dad and I didn’t get on too well at that point. I wanted to try something else.
‘But, after a while, I started to think I wanted to be home again. The business just grew and grew. We were over-awed with it at first. But we’re pleased with how well it’s gone. All of us have such a strong background in butchery and I really think this makes a difference.’
As well as providing meats that will form the centrepiece of many festive dinner tables, Roaming Roosters also create delicious glazed hams, pigs in blankets, pork sausages and their award-winning bacon which was named Best Bacon in the North at the Farm Produce Awards 2015. The butchers and chefs create delicious deli products including pork pies, sausage rolls and scotch eggs. They also showcase some of the best produce you can get in the county from fabulous Lancashire cheese to delicious desserts. Their products are delivered fresh across the country, packaged in sheep wool to keep everything in perfect condition.
‘There aren’t many people who do what we do,’ said Simon. ‘The way we deliver means it’s just like going down to your local butcher. We’re very proud of what we do. A lot of our orders come from the M25 corridor. I think it’s because down south people were and are more quick to order food online. We’re a bit more traditional here in the North.
Once the busy festive period is over the Mellin’s will look forward to spending time together on December 25th – hoping they will be able to tuck into the goose they enjoy sharing on Christmas Day.
‘Quite often there aren’t any left for us,’ said Geoff. ‘But I do like goose for Christmas dinner. We’ll have a good meal but I hope I’ll be doing some sleeping too. I think we’ll all need it.’
Lancashire Life have teamed up with Roaming Roosters. Get 20 per cent off small, medium or large free range Christmas dinner boxes. Visit www.roamingroosters.co.uk/christmasmeat and use the code LancashireChristmas at the checkout to have Christmas dinner delivered to your door.
Cooking your delicious free range turkey
Choose the right sized bird: 4-5kgs will feed up to seven, a 6kgs bird will feed up to 10, a 7.5kgs bird up to 14 people.
Take your turkey out of the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before you want to cook it.
Gently separate the skin of the bird from the meat, and rub butter into the pocket you have created on the breast meat. The butter will melt into the meat to make it moist.
Preheat your oven to 160oC and put your bird in a roasting tray with a couple of cups of water in the bottom. You’re best to cook it unstuffed, as it will cook more evenly. Rub salt and pepper into the skin.
If your turkey is under 6.5kgs, you should cook it for 45 minutes per kilo, plus 20 minutes. If it’s over 6.5kgs, you should cook it for 35 minutes per kilo, plus 20 minutes.
For the last hour turn the heat up to 180-200oC, which will add a real crisp to the skin.
When your bird has finished in the oven let it rest for an hour in tin foil but also wrap it in a large, clean, thick towel to lock in moisture
Top turkey tips
Separate the skin from the flesh and stuff with butter
Add salt and pepper and cook long and slow until the last hour of cooking, then turn up the heat for a crisp skin
Remove from the oven and wrap in foil then a clean towel for at least an hour to allow the meat to rest. This will make it very tender and juicy.
Tips for your Boxing Day leftovers
Strip the leftover turkey meat and make it into a soup. You can do the same with any leftover veggies or potatoes.
Finely shred the leftover veg and make bubble and squeak. Add turkey for a more savoury dish.
Use the Turkey carcass to make stock.
Make masses of turkey curry