Health for Life Kitchen’s Editor Helen Bissett, interviews Expert Contributor Sally Wise.
Sally is a best-selling Author of 11 cookbooks, including her gluten-free cookbook “From My Kitchen to Yours”. Sally operates a small cooking school in the idyllic Derwent Valley in Tasmania and she is passionate about creating nutritional, additive free food from fresh, seasonal produce.
Q: Tell us about your earliest “cooking memory”. How old where you?
As I recall, I was seven or eight. I remember cooking with my grandmothers, in their kitchens that always smelt so good. There was really no other place I would rather have been back then, and the kitchen is still where I love to be to this day.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to cook and write cookbooks as a career?
I never dreamt that I could or would. However, people kept asking me to collate my recipes as they always worked really well, so eventually I did. It’s just continued on from there.
Q: Is there one cook or chef in particular that has influenced you?
Not really, I have always just pottered about in the kitchen doing my own thing. I am very pleased to see chefs or cooks now like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall who also espouses getting back to basics, for the love of the produce, the food and the sense of hospitality associated with cooking for friends and family.
Q: You have written quite a number of cookbooks. Can you tell us about how an idea for a cookbook starts and how long it takes to write and test all the recipes?
I guess it starts with a theme. To this I match a skeletal framework and then ‘flesh it out’. Mentally I ‘throw the ingredients’ into the air, and imagine how they will fall into place to best effect in a new recipe.
I usually write one or two cookbooks a year.
Q: When you are writing, do you have to “lock yourself away”, or can you pick up the task and put it down, amongst your other commitments?
What a novel notion! In my kitchen it’s hard to be actually locked away, as we have a constant stream of visitors, friends and family, even tourists who drop by, as well as the cooking school guests. However, my constant companion is my notebook where I jot down thoughts in and amongst all this pandemonium.
However, when it comes to actually writing the recipes up, I do need to lock myself in my study, with only a cat in a basket on the desk next to me for company.
Q: You have recently been editing a new cookbook. Can you tell us about this, your newest book?
It will contain recipes that relate to the country style of cooking, home and hearth.
Q: How long have you been a regular guest on ABC Radio in Tasmania? What is your segment about?
Probably for about 10 years now. This talkback segment is entitled “Jams and Preserves”. However, it has come to encapsulate a great deal more, with listeners asking questions on all sorts of cookery topics. They also ring in with cooking tips and family favourite recipes of their own.
Q: You are passionate about fresh, seasonal produce and additive free cooking. Why did this become important to you?
We had 6 children, all, as it turned out, with allergies to a greater or lesser degree. Although I have always cooked with fresh ingredients, I decided that the best thing I could do, and what was within my control, was to strip all items in our diet back to the basics of fresh, seasonal produce and making our food as additive free as humanly possible.
As a side benefit, I discovered that that the food tasted incredibly good, courtesy of the best of seasonal produce. Furthermore, I decided to capture each season’s’ bounty in a bottle or jar by preserving anything I could get my hands on. These I would use like a ‘toolbox’ of ingredients to add colour, flavour and the best of nutrients into my cooking for the family.
And so the pattern and appreciation for fine, seasonal produce has continued.
Q: Your cooking school at your farm at Molesworth in the beautiful Derwent Valley in Tasmania is very popular. Can you tell us a little about the school and the classes you run?
Here we live in a valley of abundance, each day throughout the year bringing in new and delicious produce. This is incorporated into the cooking classes here.
These four-hour classes can cater for up to 10 people, are hands-on and allow plenty of time for discussion and questions. One of my favourite classes to conduct is the gluten-free topic. Others include preserving the fruits of the season, making and baking yeast goods, slow cooking, family favourites, sausage making and pasta making and more besides. A full list can be found on my website: http://www.sallywise.com.au/cooking-classes/
Dietary requirements are easily catered for. In fact, newly introduced one-on-one or group sessions can be matched to a person’s specific dietary needs, a mini cookbook for individuals being prepared on the day.
Q: We would love to hear about your animals, your farm and what you grow at the farm.
As for the animals – well, we usually take on those who are in need of help in one way or another – abandoned or mistreated. We currently, of the domesticated kind, have three cats (one was a feral on the property here when we came) and two dogs. We have many chickens and ducks and several very spoilt sheep – one of them, Doris, thinks that it is her right to eat some of the warm chicken mash, off a spoon, each morning.
By way of produce, we have a small orchard of fruit trees – nectarines, medlars, apples, plums, greengages, olives, sloes, lemons, limes, cumquats, cherries and quinces.
We have large vegetables patches that have yielded spinach, kale, silver beet, red cabbages, beans, lettuces, garlic, tomatoes, New Zealand yams, potatoes of several varieties, pumpkins and horseradish.
By way of other fruits, we grow raspberries, strawberries, loganberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, red, black and white currants and rhubarb.
We also grow a large range of herbs, including elderflowers and Tasmanian pepperberries.
Q: And finally, if you could choose one favourite Sunday lunch menu to cook for your family, what would that be?
Well each and every Sunday is open-house for any of the family who can come to visit. There is always a roast from locally sourced meat, with fresh vegetables from the garden, often made into interesting vegetarian dishes. Neighbours will often come along too, and so it’s good to prepare for vegetarians who may be present, or those with dietary intolerances, so always there will be dishes that cater for this, just in case.
A dessert will usually be part of the meal – one that includes fresh seasonal fruits, or in winter, bottled fruits. Whatever the dessert, there will always be homemade fruit based ice cream or sorbet as an accompaniment.
By way of drinks there will without doubt be husband Robert’s homemade beer and stout, as well as non-alcoholic sparkling fruit drinks and cordials that I make. To finish – homemade fruit liqueurs for those who like a little something of that nature before heading home.
Sally, thanks for your time and the opportunity for Health for Life Kitchen Members to get to know you better.
Click here to find out more about Sally’s books.
Click here to see Sally’s delicious gluten-free bread recipe
Click here to read Sally’s latest blog