Gallowtree and Humberstone gate played hosts to the Continental market for the last time this year, as they made their final stop to Leicester.
Stalls offering delicate pastries, succulent jerk chicken to handmade jewellery and plants all the way from the Netherlands offered a stellar variety to the people of Leicester.
For some traders it was their first time, others have been doing the job for decades. Making my way around the stalls, I spoke to people from all over the globe who make their way to Leicester three times a year. Here are some of the gems that brought a small part of their homes to our city.
Italy – First, it was to Italy were Ariana and Davide all the way from Apulia, also known as the “heel of Italy’s boot” where they were selling freshly baked Macaroons not to be confused with the French variety. Macaroons original come from Italy but most people will be more accustomed to French variety, which are very different in both appearance and method of baking to how the Italians make it. The Italian variety I was told was a mix between a cake and biscuit, mainly flavoured with coconut, the sweet treat is not as unhealthy as you think it would be. It’s both gluten and dairy free, with three main ingredients coconut, sugar and egg whites.
“It’s really good because you get to travel around the world and see different cultures. We’ve been to so many different places, like Kilmarnock in Scotland, Ireland, Sheffield, Bromley, Newcastle, and London. So you’re never at home if you like travelling it’s very good.”
France – Thomas from Lyon in the region of Rhône-Alpes and his friend Zachariah set up their own little Patisserie in a marque with huge ovens and French music booming from a stereo in the background. It was not quite the sophisticated little shops you would find in the little street of Paris, alongside the cobbled pavement. However, with a smile on their faces singing along to the songs in French, with red berets on their heads, they really brought a little bit of France to out small city of Leicester. A variety of beautifully uniformed and dainty pastries and cakes, both sweet and savoury, familiar and unusual lined the tables. French favourites pain au chocolate, croissants and goat’s cheese and spinach tarts were on offer to satisfy that pastry craving, but also something different, with pastries infused with baileys Irish cream.
“People here like sweet and savoury pastries. It’s a really good market, with really good stalls.”
Jamaica – You could smell the wonderful aroma of grilled jerk chicken, goat curries, rice and peas and the list could go on of the wonderful array of the afro Caribbean food. In a bright yellow marquee named the ‘Island spice grill’ and decorated with photos of athlete’s from the Jamaican athletic team, including of course Usain Bolt, a friendly team consisting of Carl, Bamba and Mohammed were tending to a long line of people. So much so that I had to wait some time until I could speak to someone, which is a real testament to the great food they were cooking. Now residing in Sheffield, many years ago Carl used to work in Leicester, so catching up with old friends combined with cooking food that he grew up with eating, is nothing short of joyous for him.
“It’s a Leicester crowd. You know each time we come down here, it’s like we’re coming back to family, coming back to friends.”
Wiltshire – Simon from Melksham in Wiltshire had an array or chillies both fresh and dry, alongside nineteen varieties of chilli sauces. The sauces are made using local produce from chillies grown on a farm. He has been coming to Leicester to sell his chilli sauces for three years now and has seen a great response from people, what he puts down to the multicultural communities we have in the city who love chillies in their food, not only spice but also to impart flavour. There were such a variety of flavours of sauces, using chillies of different strengths on the Scoville scale (used to measure how pungent a chilli is). Wiltshire Chilli Farms sauces start off at the 100 mark on the scale and go as far as 550,000, which is as a result of using the Habanero chilli pepper. The chilli sauces can be used in a range of ways from condiments and dips to marinades.
“The people, they’re so friendly and they’re interested. They think it’s great that the produce is grown and made here in the UK, rather than being brought in from abroad. They’re really enthusiastic, especially about unusual chillies they’ve never seen or tried before.”
Dorset – Leicester local Peter set up a selection of handmade chutneys, jams and pickles. He’s collaborating with a mother and daughter in Dorset who have been running the manufacturing of these jarred goods for nineteen years. Each flavour can take up to a day to make, this is for one of two reasons. First, they make small batches and secondly in turn a small batch allows more control over the continuity of the flavours. Whilst the products are made in the West Country, Peter is very much local and helps set up shop in markets to spread work of a product he’s very passionate about. In his third year working with The Cherry Tree, Peter has seen a real following and familiar faces who come back time and time again.