The annual Christmas Market at Childwickbury is very popular with our readers, so if you are a regular, or have never been, do try and go this weekend – 24-25th November. Christiane Kubrick hosts a range of fellow artists, and you can buy and commission beautiful and unusual pieces, that will, of course, make fantastic Christmas gifts. There will be excellent food to buy again, so you can take your time and enjoy the lovely surroundings of the Childwickbury Estate.
One of the reasons I go is to buy preserves and syrups from Andi Hill, who lives in Childwickbury. Andi makes delicious preserves from the fruit on the estate and often uses the plums that you can see as you walk around in the Autumn; before Andi was using them, they often simply fell to the ground and went to waste. Andi only makes small batches so doesn’t make enough to sell in local shops, so this is the best way to buy them. New this year for the Christmas Fair are hedgerow preserves, including elderberry jelly, blackberry jelly, and rosehip jelly with gold leaf, which I am looking forward to trying. I had game preserve last year, which was amazing and went with a huge range of meats, including sausages. Andi also keeps bees, and occasionally has extra honey to sell, though this year has been very tricky for honey. Andi’s fruit syrups are fantastic for adding to sparkling wine for delicious cocktails – try the elderberry and blackberry if she has any left.
Fired Up Pizza do private parties for the Kubricks and are now favourites at the Markets. I had one of their pizzas at the summer market, and it was excellent – thin crust, and piping hot straight from the huge pizza oven they bring with them.
Celia Brooks has been at various Childwickbury markets in the past, and specializes in vegetarian cookery, and for this fair she is running a soup shack. She has cooked for Christiane for years, and now runs gastro tours of Borough Market.
And local favourite Johnny a.k.a The Pudding Stop will be there. I am eating a slice of his amazing bakewell tart as I write! Our London commuters know Johnny and his characterful van well from St Albans train station, and I know a few people who have a serious custard tart habit; it can be very difficult to walk past the van each night and not buy something! Johnny is a finalist in the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards in the Streetfood category, recognising the quality of his products and the fact that he uses so many local products and bakes at our local bakery Redbournbury Mill. Valentine Warner and Charles Campion spent the day with Johnny recently to find out what he does as part of the judging process, and featured him on a special show on Radio 4. The winners will be announced next wednesday at the The BBC Good Food Show at the NEC.
Newcomer Juice Dub is also going to be at the Market. Have you seen his fantastic orange VW camper van “Mary-Jane” in St Albans town centre yet? Matt Thompson makes fantastic fruit smoothies to order from his van, so you can give yourself a vitamin boost while you get on with your shopping. Matt has also done some of the big festivals such as Wilderness. I had a quick tour of Mary-Jane and was amazed to see what he can fit in there. He has fresh juice and fast-frozen fruit that can be whizzed straightaway, meaning you get a smoothie in perfect condition, tailor-made for you. Health Kick appealed to me – blueberries, spinach, pomegranate, orange and carrot juice, at just £3 for a generous beakerful. His coffee is good too – Matt grinds the single estate Limini beans on the van to order so every cup is packed with flavour. Matt also does a hot smoothie with steamed milk, oats and fresh fruit, which is a meal in itself and must be good for you. He can add manuka honey, or a dash of cinnamon if you fancy something warming and seasonal. If you don’t get to Childwickbury, look out for Matt in St Albans town centre on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. He is usually there 9-6, but it all depends on how reliable Mary-Jane is feeling. She is 38 now, and finds rain and cold mornings a bit trying. I know how she feels.
The Childwickbury Christmas Market is open 10-5 and there is plenty of parking on the field, but if it has been raining, they warn you to take some wellies in the boot. I look forward to seeing you there.