WHEN your new boss tells you he thought you might only last a few weeks in the job, it might dent your confidence.

However, that wasn’t the case for female butcher Sophie Cumber who not only stuck it out but has now gone on to open her own place.

The trained chef is the latest food provider to join Fife-based Bowhouse, the space for artisan food and drink producers in the area.

Since its inception in 2017, Bowhouse has been a destination to connect shoppers with food and drink producers.

The site is home to a number of makers transforming local ingredients. These include Scotland the Bread – organic flours using grains grown at Balcaskie Estate; East Neuk Market Garden – organic vegetables and salads; Futtle Organic Brewery – organic brewery and tap room using foraged ingredients and natural fermentation; and Langoustine the Box – shellfish landed locally.

Cumber is sourcing beef, lamb and game from Balcaskie, in the heart of Fife’s East Neuk, where Bowhouse is situated, and specialises in a nose-to-tail approach, traditional hanging techniques and cuts that allow the natural flavour of the meat to shine.

The farming system on Balcaskie Estate focuses on natural, native and wild meat production, producing organic beef, lamb and mutton alongside free-range pork and wild venison.

It has been a long road for Cumber but one she feels has come full circle.

She grew up on a farm in Oxfordshire and enjoyed family meals with the best of produce, but found a love for cooking when she moved away from home.

“I very quickly realised that if you wanted to eat nice food and you weren’t living at home anymore you would have to make it yourself,” said Cumber.

“So I learned to make things and really began to think about the ingredients and the quality of them that I was using.”

Cumber, who had a spell as a drama student, went on to study at Leiths School of Food and Wine. She then worked at London’s Barbecoa butchers and Turner & George meat merchants before moving to Bowhouse in early 2020.

“Leiths was an excellent learning ground and there was an element of butchery in the course, and I just really took to it,” she added.

“I became more interested in what you could do with different cuts and I decided that was what I wanted to focus on.”

After completing her initial training Cumber got a job in a butcher’s in London just weeks before Christmas one year.

She said: “I was taken on at a shop and was desperate to learn. I was the only female with nine male butchers, but I just got on with it. Of course there was a bit of banter being the only female in what is quite a male job traditionally but I quite liked it.

“While they might not have been that forthcoming at times, I just made a point of sidling up to people and saying ‘that looks interesting, what are you doing there?’ It was the best way to learn.

“It was only a few months in that the boss admitted he didn’t think I would last when he hired me.

“He knew I had a background in food and thought I would be good to talk to the customers.”

Now Cumber feels she has found the right place to set up on her own as Butchery at Bowhouse, and was delighted to be asked to join the artisan project.

“It has been tough opening up just as lockdown was happening, but we very quickly moved things online.

“Now things are beginning to ease I have been able to open up a few days with social distancing measures in place.”

Butchery at Bowhouse will initially trade online via Open Food Network, which allows Cumber to sell her meat to households across the UK.

Cumber will only be working with whole animals from Balcaskie Estate, produced on a small scale. This means that making the most of each carcass with a nose-to-tail approach is key.

Butchery at Bowhouse stocks a range of roasts, steaks, mince, offal and stewing cuts alongside Cumber's own seasoned sausages and bacon.

She said: “It’s been a pleasure to go back to my roots and work so closely with farmers again.

"This proximity to the source is one of the reasons I made the move to Bowhouse.

“Working so directly with those rearing the animals is really important. A single-link supply chain like this is at the heart of controlling quality, sustainability and is, of course, much more resilient during these turbulent times.

“This may be a challenging time to launch the butchery but I’m delighted that our online shop allows us to send our top-quality meat direct to people across the country.”

Meat from Butchery at Bowhouse is also available for local delivery and contactless collection via Bowhouse Link – an online marketplace that brings together selected producers and allows shoppers to select the food and drink for either contactless pick up or local delivery.

Find out more about Butchery at Bowhouse and buy online at openfoodnetwork.org.uk/butchery-at-bowhouse/shop

Read more: Food and drink: Meet the female butcher carving out a career for herself in Scotland

Read more: Coronavirus in Scotland: Giovanna Eusebi's lockdown family feast recipes for you to try

Sophie Cumber's perfect way to cook lamb rump

Lamb rump is one of my favourite cuts and not something you often see being used. It makes a perfect dinner for two and is quick and easy to cook when you know how.

Ask your butcher for a lamb rump. It will probably be between 400-600g which will feed two happily but if smaller you can always get a couple and just reduce the time in the oven a little. One side will have a good fat covering – lightly score this or ask your butcher to do it for you.

Preheat your oven to around 180C. Take the meat out of the fridge at least half an hour before cooking it, season all over with salt and then place fat side down into a cold frying or griddle pan.

Turn up the heat to about half whack and let the pan heat up slowly without moving the meat, this lets the fat render down without catching and burning. The same method is used for duck breasts, and actually often I start my steaks this way too.

After a while turn the heat up again to get a good colour on the rendered fat and then brown the meat on all other sides, crack some black pepper over the rump and transfer it to the oven, now with the fat side up. At this point you might like to throw some garlic/herbs/butter into the pan as well.

Cook it in the oven for around 10-15 minutes depending on the size and how pink you like it and then bring it out to rest for a good 10 minutes. Assemble your sides and then slice the rump against the grain (if you take it at a diagonal you can’t go far wrong) to serve.

I would always pair this with some nice greens, either a salad or some griddled cabbage, finished with an anchovy dressing.