Jam packed

From pre­serves to piz­zas, a fun-filled cook­ing class in Ho­bart has all bases cov­ered

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - The Food Issue - ANNE LIM

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.

CHRIS CR­ERAR

Sally Wise, right, lends a help­ing hand to a par­tic­i­pant in one of her cook­ing school classes

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