Amazon Kindle Store

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Yesterday I decided to get out of Nottingham and took the London bound train as far as the city of Leicester (pronounced Lester). You are lucky I didn’t go to the town of Loughborough (pronounced Luff burra – not looga ba rooga or lowth bo ruff)!

I wanted to visit the open market and experience the atmosphere of a real shouty market with atmosphere and characters and great fresh vegetables and fruit on offer and who knows – maybe even a fish market and butchers stalls.

Leicester is about half an hour away from Nottingham on the high speed train and I hadn’t been there for about 10 years and hoped and prayed that the market was still in place in the centre of the city. Thankfully for the purpose of telling my story and for the citizens of Leicester, it was.

I arrived in town about 10am and from the railway station I went past the Thomas Cook statue, through an underpass that smelt of stale wee and onwards down Granby Street towards the centre of town. In a previous job I used to come to Leicester quite often and got used to places that I could utilise if I got ‘caught short’ – English expression for needing the toilet. The posh Radisson owned Granby hotel was one of those places and they have nice loos on the ground floor. There are so many folk coming and going in hotels that generally the staff never notice people using their facilities. They have some pretty stained glass windows in there too. Anyway, moving on.

After my diversion at the Granby hotel I went for a look at the impressive new theatre space Leicester now has. The Leicester Haymarket Theatre is now closed and the city has a very modern new theatre called The Curve. Apparently you can see the backstage workings of shows from outside which gives a whole new meaning to the notion of company transparency.

Five minutes walk away in the centre of Leicester was the Leicester Market and after taking a few photos around The Curve area I trotted off to see what I could experience in the real time theatre of the street market on a Saturday morning.

This would have been about 10.30am and the market was hotting up with traders selling their goods. With all this foodie writing I often find myself going back to my childhood memories and this trip was no different. The good natured banter of the stall holders calling out and the smells and the colours of the fruit and vegetables all reminded me of my years as a young boy going round the sadly missed Open Market near Derby Bus Station with my mum and granny in the 1960s. Of course, I was a lot shorter then but from my child’s vantage point I do recall the thrill and bustle of those visits and me mum in her headscarf with horse images on. Bet my dad bought her that, he liked the horse races and a bet at the bookies.

On this occasion I busied myself with taking some sneaky photographs of the stalls and the people traffic and spoke to a young black guy called Ruben who explained to me what the vegetables were on his stand. He had plantain and sweet potatoes and lots of other chunky looking root vegetables.

One my way round I noticed with great glee that Leicester had a real fish market and I quickened my walking pace until I found the entrance near to Market Place South. It was fabulous to discover that there were several stalls selling fish and seafoods and three or four busy butchers’ stalls. There was a tripe stall and one of the fishmongers had a few large portions of dark red/purple venison as well as some wild rabbits on offer with their livers displayed.

I wasn’t going to buy anything because of carrying things around all day and through my efforts to save some money but I was tempted to buy a rabbit for £3.99. I got them to chop it up and bag it up well so that the bloody juices didn’t mess up my bag. I got so excited at the thought of making a rabbit stew with prunes and red wine when I got home that, after taking lots more photos in quick succession around the market and shopping streets, I made my way back to the railway station. I just managed to get the 11.54am train back to Nottingham and I was back home for 1pm. Out came the kitchen knives and vegetables and I was chopping away like a man possessed to make my rabbit stew with prunes. I made enough for at least three meals and got a bit carried away with the red merlot wine. One glass for me, one for the stew. On with some French music and I was in some culinary heaven. Even the sun had come out.

A great day out at the Leicester Market and I can still hear those ungrammatically correct truncated cries of “Two for £1.20 strawberries!” “Fifteen Satsumas a pound!” “Best nanas!” “Two pound a mushrooms a pound” “How ‘bout these? Best bananas!” “Come on now!” “Oy mate, are you tekking photos!? Tek one a me!”

I really wish that we had a market like Leicester’s Award winning market in Nottingham. I might go back for the continental market in early May.

There are some more pictures of my day, wot ah was tekkin’, available here. Enjoy.

By the way, the stall holders seemed very keen to hear about this blog and more than happy for me to take pictures of their produce.


Marian said...

My daughter went to Uni at Leicester - you've just reminded me of this:

Have a good day!

Athina said...

Thanks for helping us pronouce Leicester and Loughborough correctly. I thought the pronunciation was Lay-ces-ter and Low-bo-row. :)

I'm wondering where they import the bananas. I saw the pics on flickr and I think you folks can't have the luxury of eating fully ripe bananas there. Fully ripe bananas have tiny brown specks and are very sweet.

Dedene said...

What a fun time I just had with you on your trip! Would love to have your rabbit/prune recipe.
Have a nice Sunday.

Janette Jones said...

Didn't Gary Lineker's parents used to have a stall on Leicester market? I've never been, but oh so what to go, now I've read your post!

Emily said...

Great post. Love visiting food markets too. Great for inspiration and people watching. I recommend Birmingham market too, if you have not yet been. At the end of the day they sell of fruit and veg for silly money. Whole mixing bowls of tomatoes, chillis, ginger, oranges... for 50p or £1. Great if you plan on mass catering!

StGeorgeOfEngland said...

Gary Linekers parents used to run the stall which was owned by his grandparents. I think it stayed in the family until the late 1980's.
We are sadly lacking a great market here in Nottingham.
As a kid I used to go to the cattle market and was always amazed at the live rabbits in cages which were sold for pets or food. The market was thriving but now I think that the nearest livestock market is at Newark, though I am not sure of this.
Mmmm. Rabbit stew sounds good, as does the Merlot.
Enjoy Phil.

Not Waving but Drowning said...

Smashing post, it felt as of I were there,



French Fancy said...

I love a street market and yours sounds much more lively than the ones in our bit of France.

I've never cooked rabbit although I see it often here - was it good?

Phil Lowe said...

The rabbit was very good and next door's cats are enjoying finishing it off. I cooked it with a veg stew of puy lentils, fresh celery with leaves, rough cut carrots, new potatoes, button mushrooms, some smoked bacon lardons and a fair dollop of red merlot wine and lots of seasoning/ salt and ground black pepper. Takes about an hour and a quarter to cookin total. The rabbit portions are pan fried in olive oil and the rest just added in stages with a small amount of unsalted butter for buttery richness. Oh and a fair amount of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley too. I bought a whole bunch for £1 and added liberal amounts for flavour. I'm not a big exact recipe follower so I do it all by instinct knowing that the rabbit will take longest to cook. I like the rustic approach.The glasses of merlot help inspire me.My kitchen is a fun place to be, not a chemistry lab.

Phil Lowe said...

Emily: I must go over to Brum sometime and nabb some foodie bargains and Guy,much as I apprieciate where rabbbits come from I'm not sure whether choosing my bunny from a cage would quite cut it with me, big softy that I am.My old half-wild cat Titus would have had no problem with sentiment and would be dragging the poor shreiking bloodied creature away for his dinner with no compunctions.

Phil Lowe said...

Thanks Janette, maybe we can go across for the continental market early May?

Phil Lowe said...

Oh yes, sorry, five or six prunes added to the dish as well. They don't have to be from Agen. Pop them in the pot about half an hour from the finish.

French Fancy said...

I follow the same 'unprecious' form of cooking. Where's the fun if one is slavishly following a recipe, weighing, measuring, anxious. We are cooking method twins.

It sounds delicious and you've made me think about picking up some rabbit pieces the next time I see some

Lineker Clan said...

It was good to hear about the Leicester Markets. My Great Grandfather George Lineker started a stall there. Nice to hear about family connections when your 12,000 miles away in NZ