I've spent the last few months developing new ice cream flavours, which has resulted in endless ice-cream tasting and lots of discussion about the art and, believe it or not, science of ice-cream making. It may sound contradictory but there is a culinary art to creating beautiful tasting ice cream and at the same time a science behind combining the right balance of ingredients to create that magical cool creamy concoction we all know and love.
The origins of ice-cream are not exactly known, but history books have cited that ancient Greeks used to mix snow with honey and fruit and although questionable, I have read that Marco Polo introduced a frozen dessert from China to Italy, which has become the home of Gelato. It's certainly true that today no trip to Italy is complete without multiple trips to a Gelateria.
Even during my life time, ice-cream has come a long way. I remember loving the soft serve ice cream from vans as a child as well as being served 'choc blocks,' a rectangular block of soft airy ice-cream coated in chocolate, as a treat. When Häagen-Dazs was created, I bought the CD 'dedicated to pleasure' and the Häagen-Dazs store on Hampstead High Street was the place to hang out on a Friday or Saturday night.
Since the 90s we have had an explosion of ice-cream brands selling the creamiest, tastiest ice-cream using milk from Devon or Dorset or Cornish cream. More recently 'posh' soft serve has made a comeback especially in restaurants such as Bone Daddies and artisan ice cream is more popular than ever before. You can now find people eating ice cream out of taco shaped waffle cones, piled on top of a 'freakshake' or biting into gelato spheres wrapped in hand-rolled soft mochi dough.
It is the small manufacturers that interest me, and I'm lucky to meet a lot of them in my role as co-founder of Little Moons. Recent examples include Yee Kwan who makes her ice-cream in small batches and Judes who make it on their farm. Like us they manufacture their own products and I really love the idea that they have crafted their own recipe and control every element of the ice-cream making process. There's really nothing more exciting than crafting new recipes. I've learnt so much on my journey of mochi making from finding out the effects different species of rice has on the flour it produces and how that affects the texture of mochi to which varieties of strawberry or mango produces the sweetest, richest flavour.
And it's not just us who are benefitting from an increased demand for well-crafted products. My friend Anabela Chan crafts the most exquisite jewellery herself from her boutique in the court yard of Ham Yard hotel. Her jewellery pushes the boundaries of art and craftsmanship and redefines the concept of fine jewellery. It's just another example of small producers who are tapping into Britain's demand for crafted products. This is never truer than in the chocolate market where I recently met with Phil Landers. He crafts his own chocolate in Bethnal Green buying his single origin cocoa beans directly from Central America and crafting his own couverture with a brand new complex variety of beans.
With Craft Week happening this month and learning about how all these amazing products are created, it got me thinking that perhaps there has been too much emphasis on what a product costs. Instead, we should be proud of the time-consuming, painstaking techniques that throughout the years have produced beautiful and unique quality products time and time again. I have no doubt that it's this focus on quality that keeps consumers coming back for more. It's why when there's new product development to be done, I'll always be the first to volunteer.