A weekend down the coast found us at the Rye market Saturday morning, on the foreshore, literally metres from the gently lapping waves.
It's mainly a local farmers' market but there are stalls selling second-hand lawnmower parts, hoses and tap fittings, used books and records (single 45s fifty cents each), home-knitted Barbie costumes, hand-sewn pillow cases and sheets, and various other sundries should you require anything along those lines on a Saturday morning. There's also a stall which sells nothing but socks.
But most go for the fruit and vegetables, the potted plants, the eggs, the honey ... and the toasted egg and bacon sandwiches from the Rotary food van for $2.50. Have you any idea what grilling bacon and eggs and toasting bread smells like outdoors at 9.30 on a Saturday morning? Irresistible. The aroma drifts across the market and people literally stop in their tracks.
We came away with green beans in their pods, young slender leeks, apples from the apple specialist (he grows and sells a number of varieties you can't get in the supermarkets), more asparagus, some carrots, celery and twelve 'free-range' eggs. (I never know if the whole free-range thing is genuine or a scam pandering to inner urban sensibilities. I mean, OK, chickens should be able to stroll about at their leisure, as we all should, but I don't know that the eggs we buy are always the result of chicken nirvana. But then, as a cynic, I remember when most backyards had chicken coops, we collected the eggs, Dad lopped the chook's head off for Christmas and the chickenpoo went onto the garden. Win win all round. But then what happened? Local governments fell over themselves to ban backyard chickens for a variety of dubious reasons. Now the circle has turned and everyone wants the chickens to have backyards again - but at someone else's expense - and we all think it's some kind of new idea.)
Where was I? Oh yeah, the market. We looked at the potplants and tried to decide on a shrub for an empty corner (morning shade, afternoon light, temperate zone, sandy well-drained soil) but gave it up as too hard. Maybe next time.
Beef and leek stew.
It had been a warm morning, but there were clouds on the horizon.
Early afternoon, made a beef stew, no recipe, just threw it all in together. I started by browning generously floured-and-seasoned cubes of rump in olive oil, then simmering it in a pot with half a litre of red wine which I had used to deglaze the browning pan, a sliced carrot, a chopped stick of celery, a scored clove of garlic, three waxy potatoes sliced broadly, two leeks sliced finely, a very generous dash of ground white peppercorns, a bay leaf from the tree outside the window, a pinch of mixed dried herbs, about a litre of water and a mushroom stock cube. (Don't know if the potatoes are right with the red wine, they can take on a pinkish hue, but it was delicious.) I let that bubble away slowly for a few hours while we went to the beach for a brisk walk.
Later, I boiled the podded green beans until soft and served them with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil as a side dish with the stew, which was accompanied with broad tagliatelle-type egg noodles. And the rest of the red.