Whether I’m at home or travelling, I do my best to support the local economy by shopping with local businesses and eating at independent restaurants. If there’s something in it for me too (a good bargain, great quality produce) then I’m even happier! On that note, let me introduce you to my favourite place in Leeds: Leeds Market, or Leeds Kirkgate Market to use it’s full name.
Leeds Market is a big part of my life – I’m lucky enough to live just a 10 minute walk from the market, meaning that I can shop there multiple times a week. This has influenced the way I shop and cook – buying little and often, choosing what to cook based on the produce available that day. Without trying, I’m cooking seasonal food with no waste and less environmental impact than I might otherwise. When I’m not shopping in Leeds Market, I’m talking about the market and telling everyone else to shop there.
The market is now even part of my work! I run Leeds Food Tours, the only food tour business in Leeds (you can read a blog post explaining it all here), and have the joy of taking my guests through Leeds Market whilst showcasing some of the best food in Leeds. The market even supply many of the pubs and restaurants on the food tours – so I get to talk about it even more. So, here are just some of the reasons why I love Leeds Market and why you should too.
Shopping Local in Leeds Market
There’s definitely a feel-good factor to spending your hard earned cash supporting local, family owned businesses. I love Yorkshire, I love Leeds and I love the people I’ve met in the market, so knowing that my money is boosting the local economy and contributing to the livelihoods of those around me makes food shopping so much more enjoyable. It goes without saying that shopping local is beneficial for the environment too!
Shopping Seasonal in Leeds Market
Shopping local usually means shopping seasonal, especially when it comes to fruit and veg. My favourite thing about this is that the produce available is constantly changing, meaning that I’m always discovering new things and learning how to cook them… dinner never gets boring in my house! You’ll find me roasting beetroot in spring, finding ways to use up mountains of aubergine and courgette in the summer, drowning in variations of squash soup in autumn and steaming a whole lot of kale in the winter.
Shopping Quality in Leeds Market
The quality of the produce in Leeds Market is out of this world when you compare it to what’s available in the supermarket, there really is no competition. I buy fish from R. Bethell and it’s always super fresh – I’ve never tasted a better tuna steak and the scallops here are unlike anything I’ve experienced before. My favourite food is sushi, so knowing that the fish is good enough to consume raw is really important to me.
I shop at Malcolm Michael’s for meat and again the quality is outstanding. Very little magic is needed in the kitchen to create an impressive meal using produce from Malcolm Michael’s, and I have a particular soft spot for their melt-in-the-mouth sirloin steaks, their black pudding sausages, ultra lean steak mince and, on special occasions, their beef on the bone. Once again the produce is local, with rumours that the furthest they travel for meat is Bradford.
I must also mention cheese here – Malcolm Michael’s currently have around 50 cheeses on their deli counter (next to the most delicious pork pies I’ve ever tasted) with all the classics plus unusual choices such as Whiskey Cheddar, Lemon Wensleydale and Cheddar with port. The cheese is the best in Leeds and Rach, who’s in charge of the cheese, is the kind of girl you want to be your best friend forever too!
For fruit and veg Neil’s is amazing quality (the potatoes seem to never go off however long I keep them in my kitchen drawer), but any of the stalls outside still offer amazing produce and are cheaper. Oh, and if you like oysters do not leave Leeds Market without stopping off at Hayes.
Shopping With a Little Less Guilt
I’m not going to tell you that all the meat in the market is free range and ethically reared and that all of the fish is sustainably sourced, but an awful lot more of it is than the stuff in the supermarket. I try to buy meat that’s been farmed locally and on smaller farms, with the hope that animal welfare is better here and knowing that it’s a little better for the environment. When buying fish I try to choose sustainably sourced and locally caught fish as much as I can, and I know that mcuh of the fish at R. Bethell is estuarine farmed (the fish equivalent of free range).
I also love that Leeds Market helps me to reduce waste. Because I’m shopping little and often, I only buy what I need and therefore rarely waste food. I also use a lot less packaging when I shop in the market – I need to get much better at this but if you want to reduce plastic use you could take a Tupperware to the butchers/fishmongers/nut shop to cut down on single use plastic. If you’re looking to shop in this way, you’ll love Jar Tree -take in some empty containers and fill them with weigh-and-pay rice, oats, quinoa, couscous, lentils, seeds, nuts (the list goes on) and you have store-cupboard essentials with zero packaging!
Value for Money
Remember those melt-in-the-mouth steaks I told you about? They’re 4 for a tenner! And that seasonal veg? Last week I bought a bunch of Kale for £1 which lasted all of the Christmas and then had to be used up in my boyfriend’s parents’ pub because there was so much of it. I used to buy a banana from Co-op on my way to work for 25p, but in the market I can get a whole bowl of them for a £1.
Even the fish is great value for money and doesn’t have to cost the earth… the lovely fishmonger at R. Bethell introduced me to Coley as a way of eating fish on a budget – it’s just as tasty (if not better) than any other white fish but as it’s slightly grey in colour it’s much cheaper! And to add to the already good value, if I’m not sure how to cook something or what it goes with he’ll offer a recommendation too (Scarborough Woof fish wrapped in parma ham and stuffed with homemade red pesto was an absolute winner).
Whether it’s meat, fish, fruit, veg or dairy, there’s no way you’d find the same quality at such low prices in the supermarket – you can save an absolute fortune in Leeds Market!
The People of Leeds Market
The people of Leeds Market and the community that they have created is my favourite thing about shopping here. Every time I visit R.Bethell or Malcolm Michael’s in particular, I get the warmest of welcomes and great conversation. I’ll always have a soft spot for Nathan at Malcolm Michael’s – thank you for making my day every time I see you!
It’s not just the individual people of Leeds Market though, it’s the community that they’ve created. When I launched Leeds Food Tours I was overwhelmed by how supportive Malcolm Michael’s were (and of course still are), and for my launch event many of the other traders also came together to offer their support. Hayes Seafood, The Nut Shop, B&M Fabrics, Bluebird Bakery, Neil’s Greengrocers, Tarbetts, Spice Corner and Firth & Payne Salad Bar all donated food for my launch event and have been incredibly helpful in getting the word out – I’ll be forever grateful!
So, there are my top five reasons for why I love Leeds Market and why you should too. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that you can buy pretty much anything in the market, even a kitten, you can get the best lunch in Leeds (Owt, Yorkshire Wrap Co. and Khao Gaeng are my current favourites) and of course it’s full of history. If you live in Leeds and don’t already shop at the market, it’s time to start! And if it’s all a bit overwhelming and you’re not sure where to start, you can book onto a Leeds Food Tour and I’ll introduce you to the best stalls.