Hans Baumann_2

Being a mail order butcher, we’ve always wanted to offer convenience to our customers. So we made our cuts of meat kitchen ready in order that you could simply pop them in your pan or oven, and we packed them individually for your freezer. The next logical step was clearly to do the cooking for you, so we did!

Our ready meals…

We launched our first ready meal back in 2003, and we haven’t looked back since! It was a Beef Wellington, and, as still stands true today, the quality of the raw ingredients inspired the dish.

When Stefan joined us as Head Chef in 2006, he got to work right away. Among his first projects, he developed the unique recipes for our range of pies – Cottage, Shepherds’, Steak, and Steak & Kidney – and the recipes haven’t really changed in all that time!

The pies were closely followed by our Fish Cake – the first of our range of chef-prepared fish dishes, which has grown with us over the years and now includes our very latest, newly developed products. Our creamy Fish Florentine, layered with wilted spinach, and our Fish & Chip Pie may be the ‘new kids on the block’, but they still follow in the same footsteps as all our ready meals. Let me explain…



The original motivation for starting to make our own ready-prepared meals was actually a selfish one. I would come home after a full day working at Donald Russell, and just want something fast. I could of course have cooked a steak – that’s very fast. But in truth I wanted the kind of fantastic, slowly casseroled goodness that perfectly complements our patiently matured, grass-fed beef. And that kind of cooking takes time – time my wife and I just didn’t have on a weeknight.

I reasoned that we weren’t the only ones with a busy lifestyle who craved a hot, homely meal at the end of the day. So when Stefan came along, I commissioned him to develop exactly these kind of dishes, and they remain the mainstay of our range of ready meals.

wholesomeFrom lasagne to Bolognese, pies to casseroles, curries to soups, these all take hours to do well. Thanks to the efforts of Stefan and his fellow chefs, these classic comfort foods can be rustled up from the freezer and popped in the oven or even the microwave to be ready with no effort. By the time you’ve put on your comfy home clothes, set the fire, laid the table or whatever else you need to do, they’ll be ready, with minimal to no washing up at the end.


It all starts with a good idea. Inspiration can come from just about anywhere – the meals we cook for ourselves at home, family recipes from past generations, suggestions sent in by our customers, or foods we try on our travels. When Stefan created our Chicken Kiev using a whole chicken breast, he was following advice he had received years before, when working in the kitchens of the Londonskaya Hotel, Odessa, in Ukraine – the home nation of Chicken Kiev!

How many traditional butchers would send their Head Chef travelling around the UK and the continent, with the express purpose that he sample as many foodie sights, smells, tastes and textures he can? We do. On these trips, Stefan calls in everywhere his eyes or nose takes him, from delis to specialist producers, and from street food to Michelin starred restaurants. You never know just where the spark of the next delicious idea will come from!

Once the idea has come, the next phase is seeking out the best ingredients for the job. Of course we use our own Donald Russell meats – it’s very handy having a butchery next door to our test kitchen! (Which, by the way, is only 15 feet long by 9 feet wide, and fitted out just like a domestic kitchen.) Stefan, assisted by our other in-house chefs, Eddie and Matthias, then cook up their ideal interpretation of the dish.

Take our Pork Goulash for example. It’s made with pork shoulder to stay nice and juicy, and Stefan chose a sweet, gentle paprika over a hot variety. He then added punnets of ripe cherry tomatoes for a slightly piquant, acidic kick. The final dish must not only be well balanced, but sit harmoniously within the rest of our range of slow cooked casseroles.


Stefan presents these meal concepts to me and the rest of our team, to see what we think. We gather as many opinions as we can from around the business, with everyone from the butchers to our advisors on the phone all having a taste. It can take many attempts before we reach a consensus, but only when we give a united ‘wow!’ is the recipe approved for use.


… To provide this has been our goal ever since we started cooking our meats for you. But how do we achieve such a high standard?

The key is keeping the cooking process as close as possible to how you would do it at home. Or perhaps rather how an experienced chef would lovingly cook a special meal for his or her family at home.

That means doing everything in very small batches, to allow for the same level of hands on care and attention to detail you would expect in the kitchen of a top restaurant. And of course you need people with the skills and experience to do the actual cooking – like our teams of professional chefs…


As much as is humanly possible is done by hand, including filling the pressed paper trays with the meals themselves, and sprinkling on any garnish, like the Red Leicester cheese on top of our Lasagne, or the toasted almonds which grace our Chicken Korma.

stefan-with-chefsIt would in truth be much quicker and easier to do it all by machine. But that isn’t the Donald Russell way! We go to these extra lengths because when you take the finished dish out of your oven or microwave, we want it to look and taste like it has been hand made for you. Which it has! So who said convenience food had to be cheap or nasty? We’re out to prove that you can still eat well and healthily when you don’t feel like cooking, or even if you don’t own a saucepan. And this can be done without cutting any corners on quality – all
part of how…

…we like to be different!

Hans Baumann

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Hans Baumann

Minced Steak

‘Back to basics’ doesn’t have to be boring, just as ‘good value’ doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself! If I close my eyes and think of the kind of foods that really make me happy, especially at this time of year, my top three are mince dishes…

There’s something so comforting about a steaming pot full of Bolognese, or a cottage pie fresh out of the oven. Just by writing about it I can hear the sizzle of the gravy hitting the hot dish as it bubbles over, under its golden topping of mashed potatoes! When it has been simmered slowly with all the juices and the vegetables, the meat really becomes one with the sauce – you won’t get that wonderful effect from any other cut of meat.

comfortingIt is easy to eat and easy to digest, making it enjoyable for the whole family, from the new toddler right through to the grandparents. And there’s nothing like mince to feed them all well on a budget!

As with all cookery, the key to getting a really good result is to start with the best natural ingredients. Choose your mince wisely. It will be the foundation of the whole dish and its flavour will have to carry through the sauce, as well as the potatoes, pasta or dumplings you’ll serve it with.

There is mince, and then there is Donald Russell mince, and believe me they are very different…

What makes our mince different from the rest?

Our mince is made from the same meat as our steaks and roasts. It’s as simple as that.

The meat we mince has received exactly the same level of care from my butchers as our finest 5-Bone Rib, or even a Fillet Steak. It goes like this…

    Making Mince

  1. 1. The full side of beef is hung to develop its full flavour and tenderness.
  2. 2. It is skilfully cut down into its parts, and trimmed of fat and silverskin to become our roasts.
  3. 3. Some of the roasting joints are further trimmed, pared from the bone, and sliced into our steaks.
  4. 4. The pieces which are too small to be steaks go into the mincer, along with some chuck (from the shoulder), which adds an extra depth of flavour and heartiness to the mince.
  5. 5. The meat is coarsely ground twice, so it retains its juicy texture and won’t melt away to nothing in your cooking.

Mincing BeefBecause we choose to make our mince this way – only from the meat we would happily cook and eat whole – it tastes like your favourite steak, is always tender, and its rich, full flavour goes a long way.

The process is the same for all our varieties of mince: Beef (we call ours Minced Steak, as that’s what it is!), Lamb, Pork, Veal and even Venison.

The ingredient behind so many delicious family meals…

My friend and neighbour, Rachel, does the best cottage pie. Sometimes she varies it to a Shepherds’ Pie or even a Hunters’ Pie (made with wild venison mince), but it’s always so good! I know I’m a bore – every time she invites us to visit, she knows I will be crossing my fingers for one of these dishes.

Great Value & VersatileI hope she will be reading this and invites me
round again soon – I will be counting down
the days to Rachel’s next cottage pie!

Rachel’s exact recipe remains a closely guarded secret. However, with five kinds of mince to choose from, the possibilities are endless!

Yours sincerely
Hans Baumann

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More tasty ways with mince

Homemade Bolognese Serves 4
Heat up the oil in a large pot. Add the meat and sear it for 5-6 minutes. Add 1 carrot (finely diced), 1 stalk celery (finely diced), 1 onion (chopped), 1 garlic clove (chopped) and 1 tbsp tomato puree then braise for a further five minutes, stirring continuously. Deglaze with wine and stock and add 1 tin (chopped) tomatoes, 1 bay leaf and 1 clove. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for 20-30 minutes until nearly all the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with spaghetti, tagliatelle or pappardelle, sprinkling with (chopped) parsley and freshly grated parmesan.

Traditional Scottish Mince & Tatties Serves 2-3
Fry 1 onion (finely diced) and 1 carrot, sliced (optional) gently in the oil for 5-6 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Turn the heat up and crumble 440g Minced Steak into the hot pan. Break it up with a wooden spoon, and brown it all over. Do this in batches if necessary – don’t crowd the pan, or the mince will stew rather than browning nicely. Add the onion and carrot back to the pan with 1 tbsp flour, and stir in 250-350ml beef stock – it should come about ¾ of the way up the mince. You can top it up later if required. Add ½ tsp Marmite (optional). Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, and cook, leaving the lid off, for half an hour or so, stirring occasionally. Use this time to prepare your tatties (400g potatoes) – either simple new potatoes, boiled in their skins, or fluffy, buttery mash. When the mince gravy has thickened, check it for seasoning – the Marmite will add some salt, but you may need a little more, and some pepper to taste.

Minced Steak Cottage Pie Serves 3-4
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC /gas 4. In a heavy-based ovenproof casserole pan, heat 1 tbsp oil and brown 1 small onion (finely chopped) and 440g Minced Steak. Stir in 20g plain flour and cook for two minutes. Add 150-200ml beef stock and simmer for a further two minutes. Add 1 tbsp (chopped) parsley and 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce, and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Season and cover with 500g cooked potatoes, mashed with butter, marking the surface with a fork. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes until the potatoes are nicely browned on top. Serve with glazed carrots and baby turnips

Shepherds’ Pie Serves 3-4
Heat 1 tbsp sunflower oil in a medium saucepan, then soften 1 large onion (chopped) and 2-3 medium carrots (chopped) for a few minutes. When soft, turn up the heat, crumble in 440g Minced Lamb and brown, tipping off any excess fat. Add 2 tbsp tomato purée and a large splash of Worcestershire sauce, then fry for a few more minutes. Pour over 500ml beef stock, bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 40 minutes, uncovering halfway. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180ºC/ fan 160ºC/ gas 4. Put the mince into an ovenproof dish, top with 600g cooked potatoes, mashed with butter and ruffle with a fork. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is starting to colour and the mince is bubbling through at the edges. Leave to stand for five minutes before serving.

Hunters’ Pie Serves 6-8
In a large saucepan, fry 2 large onions (chopped) and 4 rashers Streaky Bacon (chopped) in 2 tbsp sunflower oil until the onion is soft and the bacon is browned. Add 880g Minced Venison and 2 cloves garlic, crushed and raise the heat so the meat browns a little, stirring constantly. Add 8 mushrooms, quartered and cook for a further minute. Sprinkle in 2 tbsp plain flour, stir in well, then add 300-400ml venison or beef stock, 1 tbsp tomato purée, 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bubble gently for 15 minutes, season again to taste, then place in a shallow ovenproof dish. Mix 500g swede, boiled and mashed with butter or 500g sweet potato, baked and mashed with butter with 500g potatoes, boiled and mashed with butter, spread on top of the mince and scatter 50g mature Cheddar cheese on top. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180ºC/ fan 160ºC/ gas 4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is starting to brown and the mince is bubbling through at the edges. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Meatloaf in Bacon Serves 3-4
Mix together 440g Minced Steak, 220g Minced Pork, 1 onion (chopped) , 2 cloves garlic (chopped) , 20-30g breadcrumbs, 1 egg and season with salt and pepper. Grease a loaf tin and line with the 100g Streaky Bacon, fill with the mixture and fold any ends of the bacon over the top. Cover with tin foil and carefully place the loaf tin into a baking tray containing boiling water. Place in 180ºC oven for 1 hour, reduce heat to 160ºC and cook for a further half hour. Remove carefully from oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Serve in slices, hot with mashed potatoes and buttered green beans, or cold with potato salad and pickled beetroot.

Meaty Macaroni Cheese Serves 6
Cook 250g macaroni in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes; drain well and set aside. Melt 40g butter over a medium heat in a large saucepan. Add 40g plain flour and stir to form a roux, cooking for a few minutes. Gradually whisk in 600ml milk, a little at a time. Stir in ½ tsp mustard powder and a pinch of grated nutmeg, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened. Meanwhile, gently fry 1 onion, diced and 150g Diced Smoked Streaky Bacon in 1 tbsp sunflower oil until the onion is soft and the bacon is browned. Increase the heat, add 440g Minced Steak and fry until browned. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/ fan 160ºC/ gas 4. Remove the white sauce from the hob, add 200g grated cheddar and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the macaroni to the sauce and mix well, then add the mince mixture and stir again. Transfer to a deep, suitably-sized ovenproof dish and sprinkle over a further 100g cheddar and the 50g grated parmesan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is brown and bubbling.

Warming Beef Chilli Serves 6-8
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy pan on a medium high heat. Brown 880g Minced Steak in batches, breaking up with a wooden spoon as required and setting aside when browned. Add 2 onions (chopped) and 2 carrots (finely diced) and cook for two minutes, then add 2 sticks celery (finely diced), 2 cloves garlic (chopped) and 2 red peppers (roughly chopped) , and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until softened and lightly coloured. Add the 3 tsp chilli powder, 3 tsp ground cumin and 1 tsp ground cinnamon and cook for a further minute, stirring occasionally. Add 2 tins red kidney beans, 2 tins chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomato puree, 1 small bunch (chopped) fresh coriander stalks and the browned Minced Steak. Fill one of the empty tomato tins with water and pour this into the pan. Add 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and turn the heat down to a simmer with a lid slightly askew for about an hour, stirring every now and again to stop it catching. Serve with your choice of rice, tacos or jacket potatoes, with grated cheddar cheese, guacamole or soured cream as you prefer, sprinkling the coriander leaves on top.

Posh Veal Meatballs Serves 3-4
Combine 440g Minced Veal, 40g walnuts (chopped), 1 small onion (chopped), 1 egg and 1 tsp English mustard, and mix to a smooth consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper and divide the mixture into 12-16 portions. Wet your hands slightly before forming the mixture into balls. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat, add 2 tbsp olive oil and cook the meatballs for 10-12 minutes, or until nicely coloured and cooked through. Set aside and keep warm. Deglaze the pan with 150ml chicken or beef stock and 30-40ml cognac, then add the 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard and 100ml double cream and reduce over a high heat until the sauce thickens. Place the meatballs back in the pan and warm through. Serve with spaghetti or mashed potatoes.

Extra Juicy Homemade Burgers Makes 4-6 burgers
Mix 220g Minced Pork, 220g Minced Beef, 1 small onion (very finely chopped), 1 medium free-range egg (beaten), ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp ground black pepper and 40g fresh breadcrumbs thoroughly in a large bowl. Divide into burgers approximately 2cm thick, and make a shallow dent in each one with the back of a spoon or your thumb – this keeps them flatter as they cook. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and fry over a medium heat until nicely browned on both sides. Don’t worry if they’re still slightly pink in the middle! Place in a warm place to rest while you prepare the buns and accompaniments – a selection of lettuce, tomato, gherkins, cheese, mustard, mayo and relishes always go down well.

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