Food Review: The Cowhouse Dairy, Windley

Amber Locke meets local speciality producer The Cowhouse Dairy.

Look out for the cow in the freezer!' shouts the packaging and the unmistakable black and white photograph of Daisy the glamorous 'graffitied' cow is certainly hard to ignore in the ice cream section of a retail chiller cabinet!The 'Udder Stuff' is made by farmer Malcolm Sutton, his wife Kate and sons William and Richard who produce this and also 'Chatsworth' ice cream made from the milk of their award-winning herd of Holstein cows who graze on the rolling green pastures of the Chatsworth Estate at Shottle, near Belper. The 600 acre family farm, Postern Lodge, was first farmed by Malcolm's grandfather in 1898 who bred his own Shottle herd of Friesian cows in the 1930s. Today the farm is a mix of arable (corn, wheat and barley), maize crop to feed the cows and grazing land and their 400 strong herd of pure bred Holstein cattle which is made up of 120-130 dairy cows, plus breeding stock. The 'Cow House' ice cream dairy is sited half a mile away from the main farm at Cowers Lane, near Shottle and has been in operation for the past three years. The 'Chatsworth' brand is the Cow House Diary's flag ship product with the 'Udder Stuff' aimed at a younger, trendy market. The idea for making ice cream came from looking at opportunities for farm diversification and from discussions with Roger Wardle, the then agent for the Chatsworth Estate who put forward the idea that Chatsworth was keen to develop its own range of dairy products. This sparked the inspiration for Malcolm to try making ice cream and after much in-depth research and planning he originally started producing it for the Chatsworth Estate and then expanded the business into also making their own brand of ice cream called 'Udder Stuff'. Although the Chatsworth ice cream is their flagship brand, the Udder Stuff proved to be equally successful and is now stocked by numerous retailers across Derbyshire and neighbouring counties and in over 120 Tesco stores across the Midlands.The ice creams have no additives and are made with all natural ingredients: whole milk, cream, eggs, sugar and natural flavourings. It comes in 11 different, delicious varieties including; strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, coconut, toffee, ginger, mandarin and ginger, lavender, blueberry, rum and raisin and mint. The Cow House Dairy also custom-make other flavours, such rose for special occasions, weddings and parties. The pretty pastel-coloured ice creams are gently flavoured, creamy and luscious with a light velvety texture and are sold in individual portion sized 125ml pots, 500ml and 1 litre sizes with the Udder Stuff flavours also available in 4.7litre sized catering containers.Malcolm admits that it hasn't been an easy route to success; there were no DEFRA grants available to help him start up and that it was a steep learning curve from being a farmer to becoming an ice cream producer but the hard work and dedication of the family team to the business has certainly paid off with a top quality and very distinctive product, BRC (British Retail Consortium) accreditation and an impressive abundance of local and regional retail outlets stocking the ice cream.Other contributors to business include Malcolm's niece who designed the fun and quirky Udder Stuff logo and funky packaging and Karen Wareing, wife of a neighbouring farmer who helps Malcolm to make the ice cream in the dairy. Malcolm has many plans for the future including expanding and developing other retail opportunities, producing a mixed-flavour multi-pack of six 125ml tubs and also the possibility of developing a range of yoghurt dessert and drinking yoghurt products and the construction of a new specialist purpose-built dairy.An additional attribute of the ice cream it is also naturally high in Omega 3. Many food products have Omega 3 added at later stages of manufacturing or production but the 'Cow House Diary' cows actually have their diet's supplemented with fish oils. By feeding this to the cows it not only improves their health and fertility but it is also is the only natural and sure way of getting Omega 3 evenly distributed throughout a food product. Omega 3 is a super-nutrient and has a well documented range of health benefits linked to it including; helping to maintain flexible joints, promoting brain function, maintaining good eye sight and helping to prevent heart disease. So if you're looking for an excuse to indulge you can assuage any calorific guilt by knowing that if you're eating Cow House Dairy ice cream it's not only a wonderful local product but its actually also doing you a little bit of good at the same time!Cow House Dairy ice creams are available at a wide range of outlets including National Trust houses, farmshops, garden centres, caravan parks and delicatessens and locally at the Chatsworth Farmshop, Patrick and Brooksbank and H Smith's in Ashbourne, Tissington Hall, Hardwick Hall, Calke Abbey, Kedleston Hall, Ilam Park, Lea Gardens, Horsley Lodge, Shipley Park Garden Centre, Budgen's stores in Nottingham, Nottingham Playhouse, Bennett's in Derby, Bellini's in Ilkeston, The Lavender Patch at Hilton and at various local pubs and restaurants including The Bear at Alderwasley. You can also buy direct from the Cowers Lane dairy which is open every week on Friday afternoons.The Cow House Dairy will be standing at Chatsworth Summer Food Fair at the farmshop in June and also at Chatsworth Country Fair in September. For more details about the Cow House Dairy Ice Creams or if you're interested in becoming a stockist contactMalcolm Sutton at: The Cow House Dairy, Cowers Lane, Belper, Derbyshire Tel: 01773 550297 / 01773 550259

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