I think you’d be hard-pressed to come across a person in Australia who hasn’t heard of the wonderful Maggie Beer.
From her time on The Cook and The Chef, alongside the equally wonderful Simon Bryant, to her appearances on Master Chef, the 8 cookbooks Maggie has written, and her fantastic line of gourmet food products (my picks are her quince paste and the burnt fig, honeycomb and caramel ice cream) Maggie is one busy lady!
I first saw Maggie, in person, at the Brisbane Good Food Show a couple of years ago and her energy, enthusiasm, and go with the flow attitude is so utterly inspiring. Not to mention her tirelessness, as immediately after completing her cooking demonstration she literally ran to a book signing, where she greeted each and every person eagerly waiting to meet her with the same cheerful lovable attitude that has made her a very much-loved Australian icon.
So grab a cup of tea or coffee and sit back while we have a chat with Maggie Beer!
What food can’t you live without and why?
What inspires your cooking?
Moving to the Valley and being surrounded by ever changing seasonal produce has always been my greatest inspiration, and that in turn has allowed me to learn my craft by trial and error and I’ve gone along from one idea to the next.
Describe your kitchen setup.
I have a mixture of vintage and second-hand finds sitting next to modern appliances in my kitchen. An old marble-topped butcher’s block serves as my kitchen island and prep area, and can morph into an impromptu bar when needed! My 1950’s refrigerator was a find from the medical faculty of one of our universities here in Adelaide; that may sound slightly macabre, but it is an incredibly useful size and layout for a cook’s kitchen. I also have old cupboards and sideboards for crockery and linen which I would never do away with, even though I could make much more efficient use of the space they sit in, they’re too beautiful. I also have lots of deep drawers and open shelves as part of the kitchen we had built when we first renovated years ago. Most of my utensils are out on the benchtops where I can easily see them and have them in reach at all times. And I always have plenty of tea towels on hand too. I can never have too many of those in my kitchen!
What kitchen appliance/utensil couldn’t you live without? Why?
Now that I have a Vitamix and can make green smoothies, I’d have to say that’s something I couldn’t do without, but it took some getting used to; my first batch of pesto became a puree!
Describe your cooking routine? Do you plan your meals in advance or improvise based on the ingredients you have?
If we have friends or family coming to join us for a meal, I always have an idea of what we’ll have and plan accordingly. Of course things can change in the moment, and I’m always open to that, but in general I’ll prepare as much as I can in advance so that I can enjoy the company and conversation too. If it’s just me and Colin, it’s always up to the garden to decide on dinner. Or I may have done a photo shoot that day, so Colin and I will end up with a joint of meat or a couple of pieces of fish that just needs a salad added to make a meal. The only routine in my cooking is what’s in season!
Do you listen to music or watch tv while you cook?
Always music. I love having opera or classical music playing when I cook, and always at volume!
What is in your fridge?
Kernich’s jersey milk and cream; our eggs; too many jars of bits and pieces; a broccoli head from the garden; a cauliflower from the Saturday morning market I haven’t used yet because I’ve been away and good bottles of wine.
What is your best time-saving kitchen trick?
Soaking beans and legumes overnight.
What vegetarian dish do you make better than anyone else?
There are many, I absolutely love vegetables, but at the moment I’d say Pumpkin Risotto, because we’ve been having it so often of late with such beautiful, deep ochre-coloured pumpkins to choose from at this time of year.
What is your favourite cookbook and food magazine and why?
My favourite magazine would have to be Delicious. I always open Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion when I’m wanting a quick reference; though sometimes it’s her Cooks Companion app which is even more convenient!