29th June 2016
Selling ice creams by the scoop will be a firm fixture in our Waterfront Cafe this summer, with nine delicious flavours provided by local ice cream producer Minghella. Their Cloud Nine ice cream flavour (an award winning white chocolate flavour) will also feature in the dessert course of our Sky Dining menu, a celebration of Isle of Wight strawberries and peaches.
Gioia Minghella is at the helm of this family run business. Below, she shares how the business began and what her favourite flavour is…
How did Minghella ice creams begin?
My father started the business when he married my much-missed mother, Gloria, in 1950, and moved to the Isle of Wight. Of course, things were very different then: for example, I believe that sugar was still rationed. And at the time, ice cream in this country was, in my father’s memorable words – only available in three varieties: white, plain or vanilla! Apparently, he caused a stir when he started to experiment with new recipes, adding the freshly-ground coffee he liked to drink or some sweet Isle of Wight strawberries. Then, he would just make enough to sell in his mobile van and in the café he ran with my mother and grandmother. But he soon made a name for the unusual quality of his ice cream and before long he needed a proper production parlour to cope with the demand. I came into the business about 15 years ago, and since then we’ve won over 80 Great Taste Awards, including Best Regional, English and British Speciality Food for our Gin & Pink Grapefruit Sorbet!
Sadly, my darling mother died in 2014 and my father – who will be 95 in June (he attributes his excellent health and longevity to a daily portion of Minghella Ice Cream!) finally decided to retire about the same time. My husband, Richard, and I were lucky enough to be able to move our business to its current location at Briddlesford Lodge Farm at that point.
Explain the ice cream making process
We describe our ice cream as “Artisan” because the process is far more like a home-made ice cream than a run-of-the-mill commercial model – even the so called upmarket variety. For example, there isn’t a single drop of water in our ice cream: not one.
We start with fresh milk from the fabulous herd of pedigree Guernsey cows that have been cared for at Briddlesford Lodge Farm by the Griffin family since 1923. Their milk is of unrivalled quality and comes straight to our pasteurisation vats from the milking parlour, while the herd is being milked, so we think in food metres, not miles!
It is then pasteurised immediately, to preserve all the freshness, vitamins and minerals of the milk. Incidentally, Guernsey milk is very special indeed: it is a good source of Beta-Carotene, which gives it its especially rich golden colour, and it’s naturally rich in A2 protein, which we find easier to digest, rather than the A1 milk protein which tends to cause milk intolerance. This also means that we absorb much more of the natural goodness of the milk. Once the milk has been pasteurised along with the cream and sugar we need (and unlike commercially produced ice creams, we use as little sugar as possible in our basic recipe, because there is a lot of natural sweetness in milk and cream and we believe that adding too much sugar masks flavour. It isn’t good for us either!), the mixture is rapidly cooled and then left to ‘mature’ overnight at +4 degrees C, or below, after which the mixture passes through a special freezing machine that reduces the temperature from around + 4 to around – 9 within minutes.
Vanilla, strawberries, chocolate, coffee, nuts, fruits, spices, Champagne, whisky, rum, vodka – whichever ingredients we need to create the recipe we are creating – are all added at this stage. The ice cream is then packed into containers, which might be little individual tubs with a spoon in the lid, or take-home packs, or large catering size containers – whatever our customers would like.
The milk and cream from your ice cream comes from Briddlesford Lodge Farm – can you describe a day in the life of the Griffin family who run the farm?
We are honoured to work alongside the Griffin family, who run the farm, café and farm shop on site, and we observe at first hand just how dedicated and industrious they all are. Paul Griffin is the current farmer, and he manages the farm, and all its day-to-day activities. His father, Richard, takes charge of the calves, while his wife, Christine, runs Bluebell’s, the café, which serves as much fresh produce from the farm as possible. Louise, Paul’s sister, runs the farm shop, which is a real treasure trove of special foodie treats, as well as fresh farm produce and lots of locally made gift items, from tea towels to locally distilled gin – and lots of Minghella Ice Cream, needless to say!
Do they name the cows?
The farm is very close to Queen Victoria’s favourite home, Osborne House, and so the bulls are all named in Queen Victoria’s honour, after her male children. They are all looked after with great personal care and their yield is carefully monitored so that the farmers know if the cows are happy, relaxed and well-nourished. Genetic material from Briddlesford Lodge Farm is highly prized and sent all over the world.
What is your vision for the future of Minghella?
These are exciting times for us. By the autumn, we hope to be occupying a brand-new purpose-built dairy-processing unit which is about to be built on the site. We have been in temporary accommodation since we moved here, so you can imagine how pleased we are to know that something permanent is on its way at last! Our ambition then is to be as ‘green’ as possible in our production processes, and also to enable visitors to the farm to see the ice cream making process for themselves and understand the care and attention that goes into it.
As for new recipes, I’m afraid I can’t help myself – I just can’t stop inventing new flavours! Recently, I’ve been liking ‘pretty’ flavours suitable for summer celebrations – like Rose Garden, for example, which is a delicious combination of Raspberries and rose, or Lavender and Mint – but the current flavour ‘du jour’ seems to be Salty Seaspray (Salted Caramel), which is utterly addictive.
Finally, if you had to pick just one flavour of ice cream, what would it be?
Oh dear – I’m not sure I can! I love our Famous Vanilla Bean, of course, because the simplicity of the recipe really allows the wonderful ingredients we use to shine – you can taste the rich, creamy freshness of all that delicious Guernsey milk and double cream! Nocciola (Italian hazelnut) makes me think I’m in Italy, and Cappuccino Coffee always reminds me of my father, who founded our business and is renowned for his barista skills! But the truth is that I usually like the one we’ve just made best of all! How fickle I am! But with over 230 recipes in our portfolio, it’s not hard to be spoilt for choice.