Saskie Beer Farm Produce
"Toasted Cheese & Ham sandwiches,
I think it qualifies as an addiction"
Saskia Beer Farm Produce
Image courtesy of Saskia Beer
What did you want to be when you grew up?
An archaeologist – I suspect this was somewhat influenced by Indiana Jones movies, and also the antique rubbish dump that was left overgrown amongst a hill near the river bank on our farm. On that hill I would dig up all sorts of brightly coloured bottles and old tools, cans, spoons and objects of unidentified purpose.
You can imagine Mum’s delight when I started collecting all these treasures in my room. Once I bought home a sheep’s skull (possible a dinosaur I thought) and that was the end of my archaeological career, everything was banned from the house post haste. My sister and I agreed that mum lacked the vision required to nourish my academic tendencies and decided to become potters instead. A career path that had equally tragic results when Dad discovered us selling our wares to generous diners in the restaurant.
What is your first food memory?
Corn on the cob – picked from my Nana’s garden.
Who has influenced your cooking the most?
Without doubt my mother. While lacking vision in archaeological pursuits she was certainly a visionary in gastronomy. I absorbed information, and tastes without even trying. I started working in the restaurant when I was very young and that was a great opportunity for me to be a sponge, I didn’t realise I was absorbing it all!
Our family philosophy on food is really easy, flavour comes first. This is achieved by using the best ingredients around you when they are in season. We are extraordinarily lucky that being in the Barossa gave us a great deal of local produce to work with and of course we farmed our own pheasants as well.
If I weren’t a chef I’d be…..
While I am many things, a chef or in our family we prefer Cook, It is cooking that holds all the strings of my life together. I engage in farming to produce the ingredients I want to cook not what the industry tells me to, I cook to teach, I cook to learn, I cook to communicate, I cook to show love and affection, I cook to provide nurturing. So being a cook is a pretty integral part of me.
Who are your favourite chefs or favourite restaurants in Australia?
There are so many. For comfort food and the best Yum Cha in Australia (in my opinion) I am always taking the children to Ding Hao on Gouger st – same with Ying Chow also on Gouger St.For a more formal experience I love Rock Pool Bar and Grill Sydney and Biota Dining, Ferment Asian in Barossa . More relaxed good time restaurants, loving Supernormal in Melbourne, Billy Kwong in Potts point, Peel St in Adelaide and Harvest Kitchen Barossa.
My favourite chefs – I love the food of Kylie Kwong, Andrew McConnell, Dan Hunter, James Viles, Paul Wilson, Daniel Wilson, Cheong Liew, Peter Gilmore, Neil Perry. There really are so many people I admire this is not a definitive list, that would take pages and pages. We are so lucky to have so many people that are doing wonderful things in food and in such a diverse manner.
Which seasonings don’t you respect?
The only true seasoning is salt – and I respect that A LOT! Under seasoned food is the worst.
Which seasonings are under rated?
I think sometimes old fashioned flavours get forgotten or classed as passé when actually if it was good then, it’s likely that it is still good now. Things like Mace (the spice) a beautiful flavour to use in sausages, terrines, charcuterie,but are largely forgotten. I’ve just made a Traditional English sausage for the Cellar Kitchen’s breakfast menu which is Berkshire pork, salt, pepper, garlic and mace ,it’s beautiful and customers are loving it because it is an old fashioned, honest to goodness pork snag.
Cloves, Cinnamon, Star Anise and Bay leaves are the same, they get ignored, but they help build flavour and add complexity.I love using these spices to create different Estrugido bases for sauces, casseroles, soups and stuffing. I also think sometimes chefs ignore acidity to their detriment – a dish that is unbalanced can be technically brilliant in many respects, and visually stunning – but fall flat on the plate and become unenjoyable.
What music was playing in the kitchen last night?
None unfortunately! It was toasties in front of the TV and an early night after the Farmers Market. Usually however it would be something like Nick Cave, Cate Cebrano, So French So Chic, Lenard Cohen, Patsy Kline, Libby O’Donovan, Mozart – it’s a very eclectic household.
What’s your favourite go to ingredient?
What Kitchen tools you can’t live without?
Sharp knives, mandolin, fine chinois.
Is there a guilty-secret ingredient in your kitchen – something you’d rather not be spotted using?
My kitchen is full of them! I have three teenagers, my pantry is a disgrace. 2 minute noodles, Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal, Baked beans, tinned spaghetti, smoked oysters, you name it I probably have it. I also have a lot of contradictory and specialised ingredients like dried porcinis, bonito, miso paste, a collection of rare sesame oils, aged vinegars, home made preserves and pickles so I like to think we are well balanced. We are not preachy about food in this family,I’m still having the “eat your vegetables or else” fight with my youngest, you tend to make compromises , like “I guess that manufactured hash brown was once organic matter”…..
What is your guilty pleasure?
Toasted cheese and ham sandwiches, lots of layers , it’s become quite a problem. I think it qualifies as an addiction.
Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to eat?
Mammalian eyeballs. That’s my line. I’m ok with fish eyes, I just can’t go further than that.
What would be your last meal on earth, if you had the chance to choose?
I would like to think that it could be my Mum’s duck egg pasta with smoked Kangaroo, almonds and Parmigiana, or Chicken livers with onion marmalade, brioche and red wine bone marrow sauce, but I’m afraid it would probably be the toasted cheese sandwich, with extra layers, maybe a hint of truffle.
If you could cook a meal for anyone, living or past, who would it be?
I would love to cook for my Nana. She was very much my inspiration when I was young, she looked after us and nurtured us, she was absolutely hilarious, but also fierce, independent and quite eccentric. I would cook all of her favourites. Roast chook with all the trimmings followed by Sherry Trifle.
You can follow Saskia on instagram @saskiabeerfarmproduce and of course if you're not able to get down to the Barossa and fancy tasting some of her culinary delights, you can simply go online at www.saskiabeer.com and order delivery to SA, VIC and NSW metro areas, check the site for details.