Last September I went on a food bloggers tour of my local market here in Ely, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found and have been a regular visitor and supporter of the market since. So when I got a call from the Ely Markets team asking me to host the next tour to celebrate Love Your Local Market Week 2017, well I jumped right in.
If you’ve not been to Ely Markets before then let me give you a little background. Ely Market is a chartered market and has been running since the 12th century, the rights were initially granted to the Bishop of Ely by Richard I. The market has come a long way since then as you may expect. The team behind Ely Markets have been working hard to keep the market vibrant, with a charter market every Thursday, a crafts and collectables market every Saturday, a Sunday market, and the Farmer’s Market every 2nd and 4th Saturday not to mention Bank Holiday & Special Markets throughout the year. We really are spoilt for choice here in Ely.
This tour however was focused on the Farmer’s Market. We met at Lemon Tree Deli which is a fairly new and welcome addition to Ely. Debbie Kidd and her husband Adrian are former Ely Market traders and jumped at the chance to open their own Deli when a premises became available close to the market. Their range of products include a wide selection of local and international cheeses, charcuterie, locally sourced pies, crisps, soft drinks, beer, cider, a range of wines, homemade cakes and chutneys, deli style sandwiches and there is more to come. There is also a lovely little seated area outside which is where we were treated to some lovely tasters available in the deli, Debbie’s homemade cheese scones, chutney and millionaire shortbread being some of my favourites. While we were there Debbie and Adrian happily received the long awaited permission to start serving hot food, so I for one am really looking forward to seeing their new hot menu! You can find the Lemon Tree Deli on Facebook here.
And so we started our tour of the market, and our first stop was Hum-Closen a relatively new addition to the Farmer’s Market. Suzannah has 15 years experience as a cheesemonger and works with small producers in rural European towns and villages, bringing their cheesees made using ancient practices to the UK, think raw milk French farmhouse cheese fresh from the kitchen and you are there! Neil is the wine guy and he carefully chooses wines which are certified organic, biodynamic and/or vegan, this means you are getting a good, clean wine that is low in sulphites (yep, no hangover!!) and unique, what I love about this is that not every bottle is the same, it changes with the weather. We tried a wide range of cheese from goat’s cheese to a “1924 Roquefort” which was my favourite. We also tried a glass of Casa Belfi, an organic, biodynamic, cloudy Prossecco, this was a first for me and it was delicious! Perfect for a special Spring or Summer occasion maybe! Hum-Closen offer monthly subscription boxes, bespoke gift boxes and take bookings for parties and events.
Perfectly situated beside Hum-Closen is another new comer to Ely Markets, The Dessert Man. Ely local Jonathan is a trained chef and makes all his desserts at home, he takes great pride in offering high quality handmade desserts and you can tell. We sampled Jonathan’s brownie’s and millionaire shortbread which were both really good. Jonathan kindly treated us all to takeaway slices of his cheesecakes, I had the white chocolate cheesecake with Malteasers which was seriously good. You can buy Jonathan’s cakes whole or buy the slice, but you will need to be quick as he often sells out by lunchtime!
Next we headed for some street food and first stop was Andrew from I Am Dumpling, now I’ve written about I Am Dumpling before, we are dedicated dumplingists and have succumbed to the revolution, we wear the stickers with pride! This is hands down one of my favourite street food stalls on Ely Market, if you haven’t tried the dumplings then get yourself over to Andrew, and wait and chat with him a while, you will probably only get the 10 minutes it takes for the dumplings to cook though, as this is also a very popular stall. But they will be the most interesting ten minutes of your day and the best, juiciest, tastiest dumplings you can get! If you fancy a sweet treat I can definitely recommend the sticky buns, and if you are nice Andrew might just clean your hands for you too 😉
Another very popular street food truck on the market is Al Chile, founded just two years ago by two brothers, Octavio and German, Al Chile cut their teeth on Ely Market and are another Ely Markets success story. Serving up authentic Mexican food which does not disappoint, they guys have a really great working ethos and make sure they cater well for everyone, with options suitable for kids, vegetarians, gluten free and vegans. We were treated to a really tasty pulled pork taco and got a lesson on how to eat a taco the Mexican way. Al Chile can also be also be found in Cambridge, London and a few places in between, you can keep track of them on twitter or facebook.
So it was time to take a break from food and we headed to The Ely Gin Company, who are celebrating 5 years since starting their business. We met Nancy who owns Ely Gin with her husband, yet another Ely Markets success story. Ely Gin started out on Ely Market and made the jump to a bricks and mortar shop nearly two years ago, due to their popularity they still have a stall on the market too. To celebrate their 5th birthday Ely Gin have developed and launched a new gin, Breakfast Marmalade Gin, which we were lucky enough to receive a sample of, this is a treat of a gin and I imagine will go down very well. Ely Gin have also built up a great partnership with George’s Bakery, another hugely popular stall on the market, and have created some bespoke brownies and cakes, they kindly gave us a lovely gift of an Ely Gin Breakfast Marmalade Brownie, which was amazing! It is so good to see the community between all the traders on the market, it is very evident that they all support each other and work together, whether that’s creating products together or sending customers to each other, there is a lovely family vibe amongst them.
This is also very evident on what is now being hailed as “Vegan Alley”, a section of Ely Market which has accidentally become a Vegan food hotspot. Here we find Food! By Lizzi, Lizzi sells handmade vegan and vegetarian comfort food, her lovely Scotch Eggless are now famous and Lizzi is another trader whose products sell out very quickly with customers travelling from around the area to buy Lizzi’s products. Lizzi is passionate about making good quality Vegan comfort food and will also be at the second Ely Vegan fair in May. Next to Lizzi is Ian from Replete Flatbreads. Ian makes gourmet flatbreads, with vegan and gluten free breads available. We tried the Stromboli filled with sun-dried tomato, picante peppers and garlic mushrooms, which was excellent. Replete Flatbreads will also be at the Ely Vegan Fair.
Also on Vegan Alley is Sudesh and The Luxury Vegan Samosa Company, Sudesh has been trading on Ely for several years, selling his delicious samosas. Together with his wife Sadesh creates Vegan Indian dishes with a North Indian influence. They are practicing Hindus and their Hindu influenced cuisine “seeks to lighten the burden on the planet at every step” They use low water content spices, a small combination of herbs and use fully compostable packaging. We were delighted to be able to chat with Sudesh and sample some of his samosas which were amazing, even though he was extremely busy with what seemed like a very regular trade. Sudesh and his wife have now extended their range to include Vegan curries and breads.
Another newcomer to Ely Markets, and also on Vegan Alley, is Cha Kombucha. Cambridge local Esther brews all her drinks from home using 100% organic and ethically produced ingredients. We got to try her very refreshing ginger, original and citrus kombucha which were all very tasty, and very well packaged. Next up we headed to see Amanda at Cambridge Preserves Kitchen, Amanda is also a social historian with an interest in food heritage. Amanda uses this interest to explore different flavour combinations and also to make great homemade products while being as eco-conscious as possible. She has a variety of jams, jellies, chutneys and flavoured sugar for sale. We tried a lovely selection of jams, jellies and chutneys with the spiced beetroot and orange chutney and the pear and lavender jam a favourite of mine, I also managed to buy the last jar of lavender sugar.
We also managed to squeeze in a quick chat with Madam Sunshine and try some of her free from chilli sauces and chutneys. We also had a quick chat with Audrey of Audrey’s Vegan Cakes, another hugely popular Vegan stall on the market. Finally we finished off our tour with a much needed coffee from Silver Oak Coffee and here we got the change to chat and try some of the lovely cakes from Audrey’s stall. Not on the market that day but I believe soon to be is Joanne Cole whose sauerkraut and cumin flatbread I got to sample later. Joanne’s cumin flatbread was really tasty and I’m looking forward to finding her on the market soon.
Overall we had a very enjoyable day and I’m very thankful to the other bloggers who came along to support this tour, to the Ely Markets team for organising it and to the lovely traders who took time to chat with us. It was great to meet some of the new traders on the market and catch up with the longer serving stall holders, the passion and family vibe you get from the traders really makes Ely Markets stand out compared to other markets I have visited. There is a real connection between the stall holders and the customers too, it’s so good to see the market being so well supported by locals near and far. There were other stall holders which we just didn’t have time to see, or who were too busy, which is a good thing, I could go on and on but I only have so much room here on the blog but I highly recommend that if you are planning a trip to Ely, make sure that trip includes a visit to the market.
The lovely Gina from Fan Your Flame has also written a fab post about the tour, if you’d like to check it out.
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