We are SUCH big fans of producers who talk with pride about where they source their ingredients.
So, having followed Battersea-based Blu Top Ice Cream (who make the finest ice cream sandwiches in London fyi) for an age on Instagram, when we spotted the pic below – we had to get in touch. We asked about why they source all their milk from The Estate Dairy, what difference it makes to their ice cream, and most importantly, what their favourite flavour is.
Richard Makin, founder and director, patiently answered our questions.
Why did you pick The Estate Dairy?
RM: “I picked the Estate Dairy because their priorities match mine: sustainable production, product provenance and top quality flavour. Long before I started Blu Top I knew that the UK dairy industry was in a complicated situation – people have grown to expect crazy low prices for a product which actually requires a huge amount of care and hard work to produce. As an ice cream company I wanted to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. For me, this meant paying a bunch of attention to the type of dairy I use, rather than just picking the cheapest supplier. The Estate Dairy offered a milk which was not only super high in protein (perfect for ice cream) but also fairly sourced and ethically produced. It’s early days for both of us and I’m really excited to see what grows out of our partnership in the future.”
Where/how did you find them?
RM: “We sort of found each other, and I think it was on Instagram! I’ve made a lot of really exciting business connections via social media so I’m always using Instagram to seek out like-minded companies. The Estate Dairy ticked all the boxes, so it was sort of a no brainer.”
What difference does it make to your ice cream?
RM: “The Estate Dairy have specifically tailored their milk for beautiful coffee production. This means (among other things) that their product has a very high protein content. In ice cream, protein is mainly responsible for the body of the product but also affects how it holds air and water when it’s churned and frozen. A naturally high protein content means the ice cream is smoother, less icy and has a much more substantial texture.”
How can people at home get the best dairy products? What should they be looking for/purchasing?
RM: “The real guys to ask about this are The Estate Dairy, as they’re the real experts. But in my opinion it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for small-scale, local suppliers. When farms sell their milk to large national dairies or supermarkets, they’re under a lot of pressure to drop their prices as low as possible, which can often mean sacrificing important stuff like animal welfare and sustainability. A good place to start is your local farm shop or farmers market. This can seem difficult, especially in London, but there’s actually a lot around. Look out for Hook & Son who supply many London markets with really beautiful raw milk from a great family farm in East Sussex.”
What’s your favourite flavour?
RM: “That’s like asking me to choose my favourite child! Actually, my favourite changes all the time – I guess because I eat a lot more ice cream than the average person. Right now I’m obsessed with one of our 2016 specials called Garden Gate. We infuse rosemary into a sweet cream ice cream base and then stir in fresh honey and some cinnamon candied pecans. The rosemary is totally balanced by the sweet honey and the mellow nuts – its a totally 3D flavour.”
How do you come up with new flavours?
RM: “I guess I just think about it all the time and try to be as open-minded as possible. I tend to focus on classic pairings which you wouldn’t normally associate with ice cream and just give them a go – brown toast and jam, cornbread and blueberry syrup, coffee and donuts. I definitely didn’t invent any of those flavour combinations – I just stuck ’em in an ice cream! After a few trials, you learn pretty quickly which flavours translate well into ice cream.”
How have your ice cream masterclasses been going? Lots of interest I’d imagine?
RM: “People have responded really, really well to the classes, which is great because they’re a total blast to run! Ice cream is one of those things which, strangely, is quite daunting – even to proficient cooks. My aim is to show people that with a little guidance and some great ingredients, it’s actually really easy to make awesome ice cream from home. We also have a bunch of fun doing it. There are a lot of serious food classes out there, but ice cream is ice cream – if you’re not having fun while you’re making it, then you’re doing it wrong. I like to think I strike a good balance between informative-teacher-guy and total goof ball – fingers crossed it’s working!”