In this new fortnightly series, Karla Sinclair finds out more about the unique and controversial food and drink products made across Scotland that are sure to spark debate.
One thing that has always intrigued me is out of the ordinary food and drink. And whether they sound tempting or completely and utterly bizarre, I find myself wanting to know more about them.
Who came up with the concept? Where did the idea stem from? How is it made? What do customers think?
Luckily for me, these “weird and wonderful” products – made in Scotland – have been popping up more and more recently, one being chilli ice cream.
A food that is hot and cold at the same time is something I can certainly get behind, so I caught up with Richie Lyon, of Richie’s Chilli Sauces, who began selling chilli ice cream earlier this year.
Ice cream with a kick
Since the launch of his business in 2018, where he started out by making goods for family, friends and work colleagues, Richie’s range has consisted of spicy products primarily.
This includes salsa, hot sauce, chilli fudge, pickles and jellies, but ice cream has been the most recent addition to the fiery portfolio, which is made in collaboration with Stephen Bennett, of Casa Di Gelato in Dundee.
Richie, 48, from Banchory, said: “I have 15 products in total at the minute. The chilli ice creams are an extension of my chilli jellies and are a collaboration with Casa Di Gelato, an ice cream maker in Dundee.
“I currently have four chilli jellies – sweet pineapple, mad mango, zesty lime and rippin raspberry. Stephen and his team have taken three of these and blended them perfectly with their lovely smooth ice cream flavours.
“There are three flavours so far – mango and chilli pineapple, coconut chilli and lime, and rippin raspberry ripple – but we have plans for at least one more delicious flavour in the future. They are available in 500ml tubs that cost £4.50 each.
“I had previously tasted some chilli ice cream that was lovely and I always thought it would be great to try making. Once I perfected the chilli jellies, I thought they would be a great match to try it.
“I had a conversation with Richard, who owns The Grove convenience store in Aberdeen, who put me together with Stephen.
“We did a test batch which turned out delicious!”
Born out of collaboration
Stephen started making gelato in 2009, after opening a shop on King Street, Aberdeen, that same year. However, he did have previous experience running several ice cream vans in the 90s.
Along with his wife, Zane, the pair relocated from Aberdeen to Dundee in late 2019, before officially opening the doors of the new Casa Di Gelato shop – where Richie’s chilli ice cream is produced – in January this year.
Their gelato has won a number of accolades, including gold, silver and bronze awards at the National Ice Cream Alliance Competition and Royal Highland Show.
“I have always loved ice cream, often driving miles off route to visit and try an ice cream parlour,” Stephen, 55, said.
“We started working with Richie earlier this year. He had obviously concentrated on producing the chilli jellies and I worked on the flavour combinations for the ice cream.
“It was not a difficult process to create the chilli ice cream. We stuck to flavour combinations that worked well, including coconut and lime, mango and pineapple, and raspberry ripple with vanilla. Sometimes it is better not to over-complicate things.
“We have various pieces of machinery which pasteurises and ages the mix, which takes 24 hours, then the mix is beaten and frozen to produce a smooth gelato to which we then add any flavouring and the chilli jelly.
“Other than Richie, I have worked with various chefs over the years producing bespoke flavours to go with different dishes.”
We all scream for ice cream
The ice creams may raise some eyebrows, but Richie says “they seem to be getting more popular as more people hear about them.”
He advertises and sells the flavours, alongside his other products, online and at farmers’ markets across the north-east at Dyce, Westhill, Culter, Stonehaven, Banchory, Aboyne and Chapelton.
While they are produced in Dundee, Stephen delivers the tubs to Richie every Friday, as well as various wholesale customers based in Aberdeen. The amount delivered varies on demand.
Richie added: “The people I’ve sold it to at markets are at my stall anyway because they like spicy – and who doesn’t love ice cream? It’s a good match as well as being different and a little controversial.
“I get some great reactions from people as I tell them about the ice creams. The feedback I have received so far has been really good and positive, with people saying it’s really smooth and tasty.
“One customer has been using them to make ice cream cocktails. And another lady said the coconut, chilli and lime flavour reminds her of being back in Thailand on holiday.”
Stephen added: “We have sold the ice creams here in the parlour and they have been well received – Richie’s customers have also given great feedback.”
Richie has had a lot of help from his partner, Julie Abernethy, since launching around three years ago.
With business booming, he looks forward to growing his product range. “I would like to explore more into another side of my business,” Richie said.
“Since the start of the first lockdown, I have also been hosting Richie’s Burger Joint monthly pop-up events in Banchory, offering a range of all my own homemade burgers, chilli bowls and spicy sausages, which are a collaboration with Lurch Monsters Tilly Butcher in Aberdeen.
“I would love to expand this and go mobile with it, perhaps onto the Highland Games circuits sometime in the future.
“As well as this, more ice cream flavours are in the works. I am also working on a chilli chocolate sweet treat, but this one is going to be for more serious chilli heads…”