Butter and cream cheese are popular items on Linda McConnell’s shopping list, writes Aine McAuley.
Often they will be joined by coconut and copious amounts of fresh fruit all of which are used to make Linda’s Delicious Desserts.
What started out as a hobby as she baked for family and friends has gathered pace, with Linda recently setting up a stall to sell to the public at Roe Valley Speciality Market.
Her sweet treats, which include cheesecakes, Pavlovas, cupcakes and the zestiest of lemon squares, are becoming well-known throughout Limavady where they are made from scratch at home by Linda.
Speaking from her kitchen, which doubles as her production line, Linda said: “For family gatherings I was always the person who provided the desserts and it has grown from there. A friend suggested that I should sell them so I tried it out at Christmas for the first time and it turned a bit mad! I ended up with 28 separate orders to fulfil which was a bit more than I thought.”
A stickler for freshness, Linda is not the type of baker who makes in advance or puts big batches in the freezer for future use.
“In fact, many of her products are not decorated until 15 minutes before they leave the kitchen.
In preparation for her first day of trading at Roe Valley Speciality Market, Linda worked through the night to ensure her products were as fresh as they could be.
She was spurred on to take a pitch by her husband Eoin, a keen amateur photographer and member of Naturally North Coast and Glens Artisan Market.
“The Roe Valley Market was looking for local people get involved as traders so I decided I would give it a go. We bought a fridge that I could use to store goods on site and I also got my 5 star food hygiene rating through Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council. My first market went really well and I got some great feedback from customers,” said Linda.
All of her produce is made to recipes which have been refined and developed with lots of taste testing along the way - “I try to make the recipes my own,” explains Linda, “and make them as fresh as I can.”
Her lemon squares are made using fresh lemon juice which is squeezed by hand to give them a zesty kick. The idea of using off-the-shelf lemon juice is a big no-no and a bag of lemons in her kitchen fruit bowl confirms her approach to getting the best possible taste experience.
Linda fits her baking and market trading around her full-time day job in Marshall Howe greengrocers in Limavady. Having previously studied catering at college, fresh produce and food preparation have always been a way of life. Branching out to market trading seems a natural extension of this.
“There is a great community feel to the market and this is something other traders would always comment on,” said Eoin.
Looking back on her first market, Linda said she was made to feel very welcome by her fellow stall holders which only added to a very positive initial experience.
Since opening her order book and joining the market, Linda can recall very few weekends where she didn’t have an order to prepare.
“I’ve built up customers through word of mouth and I’m seeing repeat orders now which is very encouraging,” she said.
With her products’ popularity on the rise, she is keen to gradually build up her business and customer base while always keeping sight of her commitment to freshness and quality.
You can find out more about Linda’s Delicious Desserts on Facebook @LindasDeliciousDesserts
For further information about Roe Valley Speciality Market including future dates go to www.roevalleymarket.co.uk