Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published April 14th 2014
Local Artisan Food & Crafts
For the best taste of home you want it locally grown, which is why so many of us are starting to favour fruit & veg markets to the supermarket. The other day though, I bought some spinach from my local veg man, and when I got it home, I realised that it had come from Spain. So how can you be sure you're buying local?
All you need to do is go to the Windmill Market at St. Mark's Place. Hidden behind Wimbledon Library, the market pops up every second Saturday of the month, between February and November. And the rules for setting up your own stall are quite firm. The two most important commandments are:
1. Thou must grow, produce, catch, gather, bake, or craft everything you sell.
Stallholders cannot sell on behalf of someone else and it must all be hand/homemade.
2. Thy goods must be grown, produced, gathered, caught, baked or crafted in Merton and its surrounding boroughs.
Stallholders can only sell products that have been made in Merton, Sutton, Croydon, Lambeth, Kingston Upon Thames, Wandsworth, Richmond Upon Thames, or Surrey.
You can therefore rest assure that when you bite into that chocolate chip cookie you are biting into a piece of home, and when you decorate your sofa with a cushion, you're supporting an artist who lives but a stone's throw away.
Wimbledon Market only began life last year, but it made a marked impression on the community, winning the Time & Leisure Food & Drink Award 2013 and was runner up in the Merton Best Business Awards.
I found out about Windmill Market Last year because there was a big banner outside Next, advertising it. But I didn't see that banner this year, and since I'm rarely in town early in the morning, I did not realise that the market season had already started. Windmill Market is open between 10am-2pm, and it was just lucky that had to go to the building society before it closed. As I walked down the street, a man handed me a leaflet and told me the market was open.
After finished my jobs, I went up to the gates of St. Mark's Place. I had my purse out ready, because last year there was a £1 entry fee. I was pleasantly surprised to find that entry is free this year. My purse didn't stay in my bag for long though. The first stall I came across displayed lots of tantalising cakes at £1.50 each. The Baking Tray is run by Laura, who offers 'good old fashioned bakes'. As well as appearing at markets, she also does home deliveries.
When she saw my voyeuristic gaze (at the cakes, not her), she pointed me to a bowl of free samples, which I didn't hesitate to make free with. Among her choice of delights were banana & walnut, Mallorcan almond, Yorkshire brack, sticky lemon, orange chocolate, and chocolate marble. I found the chocolate cakes a bit too dry, and the walnut, lemon, and brack a bit too heavy for my taste. The almond cake, however, was divine. Wheat and dairy free, the cake was as light and fluffy as a cloud. I bought three pieces. My only criticism is how it was wrapped. They were put in a brown paper bag with no other protection. I was already laden with groceries, so it was impossible to lay them flat as she recommended. The cakes ideally needed to be boxed to avoid being squishified in transit.
Round the corner, Tracey Marshall had many Hamper Delights. I was most impressed by her baking kits. These kits came in various forms. There was one that came with flower pot cake cases, and another that had all the ingredients layered up in a jar, which made it look like one of those elegant glass sand sculptures.
I decided to buy some hot cross buns made entirely from marzipan, and a selection of fudge, which included banoffee pie, lemon meringue, salted caramel, and rum & raisin. They are £1.80 each or £4.25 for three. I highly recommend the salted caramel.
Bacon and Maple Cupcake
Although I already had more than enough cake, one look at Teacup Wilbur, and I couldn't resist. On one side was a large jug of lemonade or lemon Pimms, - I'm not sure if it was alcoholic or not - while the rest of the table was filled with cookies (£1.50) and some novel flavoured cupcakes (£2.50). The ones that took my fancy were peanut butter jelly and bacon & maple. Once home, I cut them in half and shared round. The bacon & maple had a slice of crispy bacon stuck on top of maple frosting, while the peanut butter jelly had a very strong peanut butter icing and and jam filled inside. Locally made, but with combinations inspired from across the pond.
Although they were selling at the market, Teacup Wilbur specialise in catering for parties. This includes birthdays, children's parties, and weddings. The company was founded by Jo & Mak, who started out by baking cakes for office parties, and throwing themed shindigs for friends. They combined their creativity to create a business that they are truly passionate about.
West Fisher Winery
Moving away from all things bakey, to all things boozy, West Fisher Winery is the smallest commercial wine producer in the UK. The make quality English wines, Kent cider, brandy, and vodka fruit liqueurs.
If you need a breather from all this shopping, step behind the stalls, take a seat on the bench, and let the children play. I don't know if there is live music every month, but this Saturday, a young lad was playing guitar.
Before you go inside, you'll be whisked away by the aromas of curry, which is cooked on the spot, and looks gorgeous. Since the indoor part of the market is mainly dedicated to crafts, you should probably wait until you finish browsing before you buy any, so as not to stain anything.
Immediately to the right is a lady at a fudge stall, but she suffers from being inside because I bought all my fudge from Hampers Delight. The Jaycee Emporium was the first familiar sight from last year. Jaycee had lots of beautifully photographed cards - 'even the ones that look like paintings'. Some of them were so stylised that they did indeed look like paintings. I bought a £1 card of a Darlek with lots of rich tones of orange, red, and blue; it had an almost van Gogh quality about it.
If you like accessorising, then you are in for a treat, as there are numerous textile and jewellery stands. Angel Gifts has a unique range of handmade canvas bags. At first everything looks quintessentially English - bunting, bicycles, buses - but at the back, you can also spot some pop art of Madonna and Albert Einstein. This odd juxtaposition makes the bag rather quirky and fun.
Complete your outfit with a Jigwe's fashion jewellery, sporting chunky bracelets and necklaces. She makes her jewellery from various materials, including, glass, pearls, and crystals.
Don't forget to adorn your home as well as yourself. Helena Rafalowska makes fashion accessories in wool, tweed and other natural, vintage and recycled materials. She started out making flower corsages using British wool, which is how she came up with the name Blighty Blooms. Helena soon expanded to making tea cosies, hot water bottle covers, and most recently, cushions. I think the tartan patterned cushions were my favourite from her collection.
Naturally Made For You
If beauty is only skin deep, then it is important that we keep that skin healthy and hydrated. Kafida Jones creates moisturising products Naturally Made For You. Her cold pressed body butters are rich in omega 3, and vitamins A, C, and E to keep the skin nourished. She does two main types: mango if you like a light texture, and shea butter if you like a thicker texture. Kafida's range also extends to exfoliators, lip care, and bath salts & oils. I was a bit laden with bags to text anything out proper, but I dipped my finger into a mango hand cream, and it was soft, refreshing, and quickly absorbent.
I also loved the smell. I'm a great lover of fruity smells, and I particularly enjoy sniffing candles. All of Signature Candles are made from 100% eco friendly soy-wax. The new business only just set up this year, and was inspired by the classiness of monochrome interiors. All the candles are white, so I did not think they were scented, but I was told that they were. I gave one a sniff, but couldn't smell anything. Noting my disappointment, the stall holder said that was a 'fresh' smell, and if I liked sweet smells then to try the selection on the right. These included coconut and creme brulee. It was the equivalent of passive pudding eating.
Although most of the food stalls are outside, a few seeped indoors. One man was showcasing a selection chutneys, olive oil, and vinegar. No ordinary vinegar mind you. This was strawberry vinegar, which he said could just as easily go over ice cream as it could a savoury dish. I agree; I sampled some on a cracker, and the sweetness of the strawberry cuts right through the acidity of the vinegar.
So Chocolicious Truffles
Someone else had the bright idea that these two flavours go well together too. But who was the winner? I'd have to say the latter, because this lady put it in a chocolate. So Chocolicious makes the most gorgeous truffles. At £5 for 100g (eight truffles), I bought strawberry with balsamic vinegar and a raspberry brandy. Not only was the taste superb, but the texture was unique as well. Instead of the ganache being covered in a hard chocolate shell, it was simply sprinkled with cocoa powder, making a soft and tender morsel.
And if you think that was indulgent, then try Indulgenze, who have the right to their 'Taste the Difference' slogan far more than Sainsbury's. Karen dabbles in all types patisserie, but it was her artisan bread that was in the lime light at the market. She had been experimenting with some new recipes, including olive, date, and the one which I tried, walnut & raisin with lemon icing. If it was not for the fact that we had a ton of bread at home, I would have bought some. I guess it is a good thing I didn't because I had no hands left to carry it with.
The Windmill Market was an unexpected shopping trip, but one that was very welcome, and I can't believe I have to patiently wait another month for the next one.