Real Meals in Saltburn is a family affair... it's also a very passionate one.

SHEILA Beswick is mulling fruit - a good glug of port, lots of spices and some lazy golden twirls of honey. Her daughter Lorna is making pastry for the hot water crust pies. It takes a lot of kneading, energy and muscle power. She's putting her heart, soul and back into it.

And Sol Hirstwood, the chef - who claims to have made more pies than the lot of them - is simultanesouly making a salad box and some delicious garlicky pasta.

Then the van driver arrives with boxes of organic fruit veg and salad stuff.

Welcome to Real Meals in Saltburn - a reminder of what real food should taste like.

Sheila Beswick was a sociology lecturer, partner Tim taught English. They both took early retirement. "It was lovely for a year. Then we started to get restless," she says.

Sheila thinks it was in a cheese shop in Buxton that they suddenly saw the light. "We are both passionate about food, both come from farming, butchering, foodie backgrounds, even a wine merchant in the family. I trained in catering and hotel management," she says.

(She was also a dancer, but that's probably not relevant to running a deli.)

So they decided to open their own place. They started with just a counter rented in another shop, concentrating mainly on cheese.

Then seven years ago they moved into their present premises in Station Street, Saltburn. And a week late they got married. "It was a bit of a busy time," murmurs Sheila.

As well as the deli counter, they started off making meals - hence the name - ready plated and just needing heating. Over the years that's changed. They still do meals, but now all available as frozen, single portions.

They have been finalists in the BBC UK Food Retailer of the Year and won a Silver in the Great Taste Awards.

"Wherever possible we use local food and organic food. We really want things to be as fresh and as wholesome as possible," says Sheila.

Sometimes you can be too good. They source and cook their own hams. One customer complained because it tasted too strong. (She invited Sheila to come to her home and put her head in the fridge to smell it. Sheila, being Shelia, went.)

"The ham was fine, very good in fact, but if you're used to eating ham that's been pumped up with water then you might find the taste of proper meat very different. But so many people now never taste real food - so much is processed, or grown for profit or convenience, for anything except flavour."

They also do lunchtime sandwiches, full catering service, picnic boxes, and pies. Ah, the pies. Even Desperate Dan's Aunt Aggie would find it hard to beat these pies. "There are 17 altogether, including our newest, Toe Tapping Turkey, and including three vegetarian versions."

They include variations on pork, chicken and game, mutton, wild rabbit, beef bourguignon, cheese, leek and apple, Mediterranean veg and spicy veg. For special occasions - and to order only - there's Mallard Pie - mallard, chicken liver pate, orange and curacao. Or Pullman - pork, rosemary, smoked bacon and topped off with a layer of pate.

They also make all their own pates -I know the salmon is good, because they let me lick the spoon - and all their own chutneys, and preserves.

And as the kitchen is just part of the shop, they do all this in between popping out and serving customers.

"At weekends we also do fresh fish and shellfish, and once a month we have a seafood extravaganza - oysters, langoustines, lobsters."

They still have an excellent cheese selection, including some delicious foreign specialities but mainly English, and northern English at that. Sheila got very cross recently about the Fat Duck at Bray, meant to be one of the world's top restaurants - because they had very few English cheeses on their menu.

"We can compete with the best in the world and we ought to be proud of it," she says.

The spiced mulled fruits were destined for a picnic pack, to be served with Yorkshire clotted cream. All their eggs are free range. The organic vegetable delivery came from Northallerton.

Lorna - until she was roped in to help the family business and spend her days up to her elbows in hot water pastry - was a research scientist and adviser to organic farmers.

"I believe wholeheartedly in the organics system. But you have to be passionate about it to do it," she says.

The Beswicks, assorted family and staff are certainly passionate. The kitchen is a wonderfully enticing mix of smells and tastes.

"It'll never make us rich and we never get much chance to sit down, but we love it, we really do," says Sheila.

* Real Meals, deli and catering service, 4 Station Street, Saltburn. Tel: (01287) 622266. Open Monday-Friday 8.30-6.30pm; Saturday 8.30-5pm; summer Sundays 10am-2pm.

They also attend Farmers' Markets at Pinchinthorpe, Richmond, Leyburn, Northallerton and Stokesley.