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Business / Island Larder teams up with farm dairies to offer Shetland ice cream

Nicola and Magnus Johnston unveil their range of fresh local ice cream. Photo: Shetnews/Neil Riddell

TWELVE different flavours of fresh local ice cream are on offer as part of an appetising new venture from expanding Lerwick business Island Larder.

In partnership with Shetland Farm Dairies, Nicola and Magnus Johnston have spent the past 18 months working with industry specialists to come up with a unique gelato recipe using Shetland milk and cream.

The ice cream, including dairy-free options, is now on sale in the Island Larder’s rapidly-completed street food takeaway in the former Smiths of Lerwick clothing shop on Commercial Street.

Island Larder offered small batch ice cream in its previous incarnation from 2017 until last year, and the enterprising couple went to Glasgow in April 2019 to learn more about the process of making authentic premium ice cream.

Imogen Young at a busy Island Larder this week. Photo: Sophie Sunshine Whitehead.

When they first conceived of the idea, Nicola and Magnus probably had sun-drenched days with tourists and locals leaning on the railings overlooking the small boat harbour in mind rather than near-hurricane force wind and November rain.

Indeed, launching a dozen new frozen flavours in the teeth of a Shetland winter is something they’ve been making light of on the Island Larder’s social media this week. “We love a challenge!” laughs Nicola.

Having obtained EU LEADER funding to support the venture, she and Magnus engaged the services of Steve Carrigan, who has the fabulous job title of “gelato and ice cream technician” with Henley Bridge.

That job involves “travelling the length and breadth of the country showing people how to make authentic gelato the right way”, Carrigan says: “And it’s unique because we’re using fresh Shetland milk and cream, so you can’t get this anywhere else.”

Magnus says they “didn’t really understand the how, but we knew what we wanted, and they [Henley Bridge] were our how”.

Carrigan came to Shetland to work up a bespoke recipe in October 2019, “taking what we used to make and modifying it to be able to be used in the machine”, and adjusting the ratio of ingredients: “We used to use a lot more cream, now we use a lot more milk.”

“It’s a much denser, much fuller flavour [than most commercially available ice cream],” Magnus explains. “It’s what Shetland deserves, and the collaboration with Shetland Farm Dairies is perfect for us.”

There are three base recipes: one white, one chocolate, and one for sorbets, and from there “we can have limitless flavours”. They are keen to experiment with ice creams using gin and beer too.

A dozen ice creams will be on sale at any one time. Photo: Sophie Sunshine Whitehead.

They can have 12 flavours on display at any time, with the current selection drawing on their own Shetland Fudge Company confectionery.

In addition to small scoops they will probably look to offer 1-litre and 2.5-litre tubs, and are also seeking to become an approved dairy establishment allowing them to sell ice cream to other retail outlets.

The street food takeaway has been open since Tuesday, following on from this summer’s opening of a swish deli with a heavy emphasis on local produce on the second floor.

2020 was always going to be a year of transition for Island Larder as the transformation of the Smiths building got into full swing.

Covid-19 has made the mountain they’ve had to climb all the steeper – but those added stresses do not seem to have dulled their determination.

The street food takeaway came together very quickly having, Magnus acknowledged, looked “miles from finished before we just blitzed it from last Friday”.

No one knows what 2021 has in store, in terms of social distancing, possible further lockdowns and uncertainty over the extent to which there will be a tourist season.

But all being well the plan is for the Island Larder to generate enough trade through the takeaway and shop to enable work to start on a planned café on the third floor of the spacious building.

Shetland Fudge Company confectionary including Puffin Poo will be among the flavours on offer. Photo: Sophie Sunshine Whitehead.

They’ll have every chance of success, not least with a charming young gentleman like Calum, their three-year-old son, beckoning passers-by to “come buy our ice cream – it’s da best!”

And Shetland News’ correspondent can vouch for that, having sampled one or two – okay, four – flavours. Based just a few hundred yards along the street, it is going to do nothing for said correspondent’s swelling Covid paunch.

Shetland Food and Drink (SFAD) manager Claire White said: “We are delighted to see this collaboration between two really super local businesses to create a delicious and totally unique product that will appeal to all ages.

Steve Carrigan.

“Everyone at SFAD is rooting for Nicola and Magnus to succeed with all the exciting plans they have for the Island Larder, and a local ice cream is something Shetland Farm Dairies has been eager to see come to fruition for some time.”

Nicola praised farm dairies manager Fiona Nicholson for her help and encouragement when it came to seeking funding to get the ice cream produced at greater scale.

Fiona said the dairy cooperative “couldn’t be happier” for the team: “We believe that the partnership of our cream and Island Larder’s amazing sweet treats guarantees an ice cream that folk will be dreaming about! In a tub, a cone, an Island Larder crepe or even as an affogato – it’s going to be a big hit.”