For the final leg in my world tour of Leeds and District Farmers’ Markets, I find myself in the very pleasant town of Otley.
Despite the rain, well it is Bank Holiday Weekend, the place looks lovely and the setting could not be better, being in the Market Place by the Jubilee Clock Tower built in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. What with that and the cobblestone square, it is Yorkshire in a nutshell.
This is a much larger farmers’ market than most of the others I have visited, but it has stayed true to its principles and there was only the odd gift stall present. With one or two exceptions, most of the stall holders at this venue travel a different route from the others I have come across, perhaps owing to the strong emphasis on food and drink. This meant that I spoke to several traders who were new to me, such as the ‘Yorkshire Lass’ who distills her own gin under the name of Bronte Drinks Co and is based in Keighley. I sampled her eponymous original version and Bronte Brambleberry, both paired with Fever Tree tonic, with whom they are associated. Being a scotch man when it comes to spirits I still (pardon the pun) found the flavour of A Yorkshire Lass – Original subtle and refreshing with the berry-based one as fruity as it sounds.
Staggering away from the mobile gin palace, I came across Autumn Harvest Mushrooms, run by Jane and Adriano, a real fun guy – you didn’t think I would let that opportunity go begging did you? There is a good selection of both farmed and wild mushrooms available, along with dried mushrooms, mushroom powder, black truffles and many other products using this amazing fungus. I am no stranger to the delights of the black gold which is hunted by specially trained pigs, but I have never written about it before; in fact, nobody knows the truffles I’ve seen. I bought a box of Gourmet mushrooms, half of which went into an omelette for dinner, which was a treat, and the other half will be fried in butter and garlic the next time I am not expecting to talk to anyone.
Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil had bottled varieties of that most healthy of produce. ( Well, at least it is this week but who knows what survey will be published next week.) along with treats using it as a base, such as mayonnaise. In order to save the environment, they offer a refill service so will sell you their oil ‘on draught’ if you take your own container.
I had a long chat with Nigel Lister of Ox Close Traditional Fine Foods, who specialise in ‘Wild Game, Venison and Home Made Meat Products’. It is amazing what you don’t know but think you do. I had always thought that those who booked into the traditional dining rooms of London for dinner on the Glorious Twelfth’ or thirteenth this year – the twelfth of August being a Sunday so shooting prohibited – in order to have the first grouse of the season were like the old Beaujolais Nouveau yuppies on the third Thursday in November, who would drink totally substandard wine just because they could. I was under the impression that all game needed to be hung for several days, if not weeks, to bring out the flavour, but I was corrected by Mr Lister, who very charmingly informed me that grouse is the one game bird which benefits from being eaten as fresh as possible. I apologise therefore to those stalwarts of Wiltons and Rules who make Jacob Rees Mogg look like MGK. I still think that the Beaujolais Nouveau crowd are a set of plonkers, after all plonk is what they drink. We also had a long chat about the benefits of venison, it being very low in fat and high in flavour, and how it is sadly underused in restaurants.
As I said at the top of this article there were a lot of stalls so I cannot go through them all but I must say that this is probably the most diverse and interesting farmers’ market I have visited, along with being one of the oldest. It is held on the last Sunday of each month between 9.00am and 1.00pm