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A view from the stalls: Mrs Sandhu

Ten insights into life at Borough Market from Mrs Sandhu of Temptings


Interview: Viel Richardson / Image: Tom Bradley

1. My family has always made chutneys. I didn’t really make them as a child, but when I was a bit older I started making them for myself and for friends and work colleagues who liked them. The first time I made them for a wider audience was when I made canapés and snacks for the wedding of one of my daughters.

2. After the wedding, my new son-in-law Timothy said: “This food is amazing. You should be offering it to the wider public.” He used to come to Borough Market and brought me here to see the Market. He was the one who encouraged me to apply for a stall. That was in November 2000. Timothy is no longer with us, but we see the success of our stall, Temptings, as part of his legacy.

3. I was raised in the Punjab, and my family owned a lot of land. Hunting was a big part of life, and they would make meat pickles called ‘achar’ from wild boar, venison and chicken using old family recipes. Some of these have been in the family for close to 500 years and are still kept secret.

4. I use some spice blends that have been developed by my family and are not widely available. This is one of the things that make my pickles and chutneys unique. Another thing is the traditional methods I use.

5. On my first day here I had no idea what to expect, so I brought 11 jars of chicken achar. An Irish gentleman came to the stall and bought six of them after tasting a sample. I sold all the bottles in a couple of hours, so I spent the rest of the day just talking to customers. That gentleman still comes over from Ireland and buys things from the stall every Christmas.

6. From the beginning, the public reaction was extremely positive. I have to say it took me a little by surprise how quickly things grew. I never had to advertise, it was all word of mouth. I had to install a professional kitchen in my home to meet the demand. It was very hard, but I made everything myself. I still do today.

7. This is a real labour of love. For example, the meats achars will take me three days to make in batches of four bottles, so it is not large-scale production. There are always some chutneys or pickles in some stage of production at home. The whole process is very labour intensive. But I think it is worth it – the time and care I take is reflected in the tastes and textures.

8. I love experimenting and creating new chutneys. The achars are old family recipes, which I sometimes adapt a little, but the chutneys are my creations. The only chutney recipe I took from my grandmother was one using pomegranate. All the others I create myself.

9. In the Punjab there is a real mix of religions and cultures and each one has its own culinary identity. Even within each family, there are differences in the way we make a particular chutney, both in the spices and methods used. So the products we sell are really personal. You won’t find them anywhere else.

10. This is all about my connection with my customers – I love talking to them. I have several who have been buying from me since we started and many others who have been coming to the stall for years. You build wonderful relationships here. Temptings is a passion – that is the only way I can describe it. It is not about making money or paying the mortgage, it is about the ingredients, making the products and talking to my customers. I really do love all of it.