From preserves to pizzas, a fun-filled cooking class in Hobart has all bases covered
THE signs are encouraging when I arrive at Sally Wise’s cooking school northwest of Hobart. Impeccably mulched rose bushes line the gravel path leading to this homestead near the township of Molesworth in the beautiful Derwent Valley. There are abundant beds of vegetables and herbs, and the smell of baking wafts from the kitchen.
Wise, a cookbook author, moved from Hobart to this 2ha property 10 months ago to realise her dream of running a cooking school. The classroom, in a newly built annexe to the homestead, has a slow combustion stove, a gas and electric cooker, a large stainless steel-topped table and sparkling pots, pans and gadgets. The ambience is a mixture of sleek commercial kitchen and rustic homestead, thanks to some barrels of quinces that will soon be turned into exquisite desserts and jellies.
Adjoining the cooking area is a long dining room with a communal table and, quirkily, a grand piano. Wise hands me a glass of sparkling elderflower juice, which she has made with fruit picked from her daughter’s tree.
When I admire the ruby-red raspberry jam sitting on the counter, Wise sets about showing me how easily it can be made — in just 15 minutes.
She retrieves a large punnet of raspberries from the freezer — late berries have much more flavour than early summer berries, she tells me — and I am soon stirring a mix of berries and sugar on the stove.
When it comes to the boil, we let it simmer for 15 minutes until it is ready for bottling, and move on to making flowerpot loaves, using Wise’s simple, no-knead spelt bread recipe. She separates some to make pizzas, forming small balls of dough that are left to rise.
While we wait, we begin a zucchini pickle. I finely dice capsicum and zucchini, adding salt to draw out the fluid in the vegetables and allow the vinegar to penetrate. (This is to avoid the fluid leaching into the vinegar and spoiling the pickle, Wise says.)
After spending her time writing cookbooks, and looking after her husband and six children, Wise, 61, entered the workforce at 48 as a pizza hand at a local pub, and now passes on what she learnt. ‘‘Never roll the bases,’’ she says, demonstrating how to gently pat out the pizza dough, first at the edges, then the middle, then pass it from hand to hand, before spreading over the pan.
Wise, author of books including A Year in a Bottle and Slow Cooker, is a self-taught cook and expert multi-tasker. I quickly learn that she likes to have many things on the go at once. She doesn’t worry about making a mess —‘‘If you clean up as you go, you don’t want to make a mess again. So I just keep going.’’ — and doesn’t believe in any unnecessary washing-up, putting the vegetables for the pickle into the pan used to make the tomato paste for our pizzas.
Wise makes cooking seem easy and natural. ‘‘I cook by sight and smell,’’ she says, pointing out that you can tell when a jam is done by the even size of the bubbles.
By the end of my session, I am inspired to make my own bread and pizzas at home. In our few hours together we have made flowerpot loaves, sweet chilli sauce, zucchini pickle, raspberry jam and pizza topped with cheese, chicken, ham, capsicum and mushrooms. I am famished and tuck into the pizzas as Wise packages up some goodies for me to take away.
As I leave, she hands me jars of the jam and pickle I helped make, along with some of her own quince jelly and tomato chutney. She even insists that I take a serve of the incredibly good toffee quinces she made before my visit, to share with my husband.
Sally Wise, right, lends a helping hand to a participant in one of her cooking school classes