The culinary scene in Australia is dominated by a farm-to-table mentality, so lush are the landscapes whose fresh produce comes in abundance. One of the people at the forefront of ‘home cooking’ is Maggie Beer, who talked us through her favourite foods and her favourite parts of Australia…
What or who inspired you to begin cooking?
Everything in my life has been an ‘organic’ process that has developed rather than necessarily been planned… that’s not to say it has always been easy but more so that I have learnt to ‘go with the flow’. So when it came to a career involving food it really just evolved. There was no grand plan – but moving to the Barossa from Sydney when I married Colin and being surrounded by such wonderful, seasonal produce certainly sparked my existing interest in food to be taken to the next level. And yes, eventually starting the Pheasant Farm Restaurant really clinched the deal to set me on my food path.
What is your favourite Australian dish?
What inspires you to create new recipes?
Creating new recipes is inspired by so many things – to connect with growing food on a deeper level, to nourish myself, to share occasions that will become special memories for me and my family and friends, for my passion in sharing a good food life, and for what has become my business on a day to day basis. 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. That is the Barossa way of life to me; being inspired by and utilising what is at hand. And we have plenty to choose from here!
Is there any food that is native to Adelaide and Southern Australia?
There are many native foods that grow here in South Australia; samphire, macadamias, bush tomato, lemon myrtle, wattleseed etc, but my favourite would have to be the quandong – I love adding it to a classic trifle recipe to create that point of flavour difference.
Where do you head on the coast of Australia to relax?
We have a beach house as our private sanctuary, but I especially love Kangaroo Island if I have the chance to escape for a few days; it’s so incredibly pristine.
Where do you take visitors to Southern Australia? And Australia?
As you can imagine, I always first start by showing visitors the Barossa Valley. We have nature at our fingertips here with beautiful walking trails to discover and seasonal produce abounding. Life here is built around good food and wine and the culture of fantastic art and music. I always try to give visitors a chance to enjoy the Barossa as a ‘local’; go to the farmer’s market, see a concert of classical music, eat just picked vine ripened fruit, talk to the person who made the cheese when you are buying it, the winemaker who made the wine you are tasting and definitely try to watch a sunset too!
I also love taking people to Kangaroo Island, McLaren Vale and Port Willunga, and if time permits, I highly recommend Broome in Western Australia for a completely unique experience of Australia.
What’s next for the Maggie Beer empire?
More of the same, and given I have more ideas than I have hours in the day, there’s no sign of things slowing down!
Having travelled and lived all over Australia, what is your favourite region?
That’s easy. Barossa Valley, South Australia – hands down!
What’s so exciting about the Australian foodie scene right now?
I have to admit I’ve never really worked on ‘trends’ as such when it comes to food, but I am so happy to hear that more and more people are interested to know the provenance of their food. In my mind there is nothing that can surpass home-grown fruit and veggies for flavour, and the wonderful news is more and more people, including chefs, who have their own kitchen gardens, are subscribing to this. There is such a joy in being able to have a direct connection with the food we eat, not to mention the obvious nutritional benefits of eating just-picked produce. This movement shows no signs of slowing down and I couldn’t be happier that it is now ‘trendy’ to grow your own!