I love Leicester Market....there's an eight hundred year old history and tradition here.....as well as a great atmosphere most days of the week. The market place is bustling, alive with stalls packed full of produce and the sounds of the traders shouting out the prices of the fruit and vegetables from every corner of the world.
But everything changes on Sundays when every stall is empty, there's a neglected air about the place...and it seems such a shame.
That's why it was such a pleasure to go the Winter Food and Craft Festival there the other Sunday.
It was busy, over a hundred stallholders selling street food, delicacies and drinks to hundreds of visitors.
I could smell the market before I turned the corner in the square.....huge vats of food were being cooked...from Chinese, Mexican, Indian and Taiwanese
to Italian.....and I have to say the Squisito sausages were delicious......just the right amount of fat and spice. They may be an italian recipe but the pork shoulder is from a farm on the Leicestershire border and they're made at Monks Kirby by Alex Chambers , a charcutier and leader of the Slow Food Movement in Warwickshire.
Sarah is bubbly and enthusiastic....she makes lots of lovely foods including ice cream, and runs a supper club at her home. It was worth going to this event just to meet her and find out what she is doing.
The other find of the day for me was meeting up with Lucy Heath who, along with her husband and son, make traditional, artisan, cloth bound Staffordshire and Derby cheese on their farm in Sataffordshire.They've about two hundred and fifty cows on three hundred acres. I bought some of their Bertelin blue seen in the picture below. What a mistake - I just didn't buy enough....it's so creamy and has a real delicate flavour...I had one sliver but the cheesaholics in the family devoured the rest before I had a chance to eat more. If you come across this cheese, do try and buy!
There were quite a few preserve stalls including this one from Stamford...
Tom Fothergill and his team were there from Entropy, the restaurant from the West End of Leicester which is rightly winning lots of praise, but they were so busy on the stall I didn't get a moment to take a decent photo of them all. These birds on the stall weren't moving though.....and it was good to stand and read what seasonal dishes are on the menu this month.....mouthwatering stuff.
A few stallholders were selling beer.....Long Lane Brewery from Coalville was one of them.Now this is a small microbrewery owned by Anne and Ian Saunders.... Mondays is when they make their beer...and they've obviously got a loyal following...by 2.30pm there were only a few bottle left....
A small brewery from across the border in Staffordshire were also present....with bottles of beer designed for the Christmas market....and yes I have someone in mind for the two bottles on the right and in the centre of this photo!
But back to the food...this lovely young couple were busy cooking up batches of fried chicken in the tiniest little fryer....and tasty it was too....was that really cinammon in the chicken coating ?
No market would be complete without the stalwart members who work so hard at the County Markets...traditional cakes, loaves and produce from around Leicestershire and Rutland. The thick pale honey I bought from the stall from Keyham has a great flavour..
One of the busiest stalls was this one selling jerk chicken, goat curry and a whole range of hot dishes that were tempting many.....
But it was time to leave while I could still carry all my purchases..... but wait, perhaps a quick coffee first?
It was so good to see so many different stallholders standing on Leicester Market - especially on a Sunday - bringing warmth, life and colour to such a historic square.....here's to the next one....