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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Lunch with Maggie Beer at Maggie Beer's Farm Shop

Sometimes I have to pinch myself.

Sitting in the television kitchen of Maggie Beer, it's hard to believe she's standing right before more, doing a cooking demonstration and preparing lunch for myself and an assembly of assorted food media.

It was with great surprise that Billy and I received invitations to attend Tasting Australia, the food and wine festival held in Adelaide every two years. On day three of our famil, Billy and I were hosted on different regional tours - he headed to the Limestone Coast, I joined journalists and chefs on the Barossa Food Tour.

It's a one-hour drive from Adelaide to the Barossa Valley, and after touring a vineyard in the morning, we adjourn to Maggie Beer's Farm Shop in Nuriootpa for lunch. The Farm Shop is a small building filled with everything Maggie Beer, from ice creams to preserves to her cookbooks and her non-alcoholic sparkling ruby cabernet.

We make our way into the demonstration kitchen, instantly recognisable from the ABC series The Cook and the Chef.

Olives cooked in red wine

Maggie Beer is just as jolly in real life as she is on television. Her signature laugh, her crinkling eyes, the way she claps her hands with joy and tips her head backwards as she recounts memories about food or stories from her childhood... it's all here, and her happiness is even more infectious.

We start with olives roasted with red wine and rosemary, a recipe she says she is testing for the first time. The olives are local and the flesh is firm, with a caramelised sweetness from the glaze of red wine.

Pan-fried haloumi

Haloumi is dusted with flour and then lightly pan-fried. I'm used to having haloumi cooked to quite a chewy squeakiness which I enjoy, but Maggie's version is much more elegant, the haloumi sliced quite thickly so whilst the surface is golden, inside the cheese is gooey and runny.

Maggie confesses she was nervous about this dish when she heard that one of the guests wasn't a fan of haloumi. The good news? She's converted.

Maggie Beer and Rosemary Shrager

Yes, Rosemary Shrager is on our tour as well. A chef and current TV host of Rosemary Shrager's School for Cooks, she is probably best known for her role as the vice principal and cookery teacher in the UK reality show Ladette to Lady.

Rosemary is equally passionate about her food, and, upon tasting Maggie's haloumi, says she has been converted. "It's de-LISH-ious!" she pronounces, in a sing-song English accent. She emphasises some words with such fervour you can almost see the capital letters floating above her head. "I LOVE it", she trills.

Maggie and a giant octopus

Next comes octopus. The giant octopus leg is an impressive sight. Maggie recommends removing the black skin to enhance its tenderness. The tentacles are cut into large pieces and marinated in a ziplock bag with lemon juice and herbs.

Skinning the octopus

Maggie puts the bags of octopus into a 60C oven until they are barely cooked. They're then finished off in a frypan, sliced into thinner pieces and dressed with olive oil and fresh herbs. The octopus is incredibly soft and tender, buoyed by the slippery slick of extra virgin olive oil and the zing of parsley.


Maggie preparing the chicken

"If you're going to have a chook, make sure it's a good chook," says Maggie.

We're having roast chicken for lunch, and Maggie emphasies the importance of using chickens that have been reared with care, not just for ethics but for flavour as well. She squeezes lemon juice inside the cavity of the chicken, stuffs in some rosemary, and then rubs the skin with lemon juice, verjuice and salt. The chicken is placed into a 220C oven for 20 minutes, then the temperature is reduced to 120C.

Rosemary Shrager, Colin Beer and Rosemary Beer


The biggest mistakes people make with salad, Maggie says, is not drying the leaves and adding too much dressing. The vinaigrette should only be added at the very last minute so the leaves don't go soggy, and there should only be a small amount that pools at the bottom of the bowl.

Carving the roast chicken

Adding gravy to the chicken

Roast pumpkin

Everyone digs in for lunch

Lunch of roast chicken, roast pumpkin and salad

The simplicity of lunch shows that ingredients don't have to be fancy in order to be delicious. The chicken is succulent, the pumpkin is sweet, and whole garlic cloves have been roasted until caramelised. Radiccio, rocket and witlof have just the barest splash of dressing.

We eat on the back porch, seated at rustic wooden tables with a view of the pond and a forest of trees.

Maggie catching up with Rosemary

Plum tarts cooling in Maggie's kitchen

Roasted plums on handmade rough puff pastry

Plum tart with vanilla and elderflower ice cream

Dessert is either roasted plums or quinces on handmade rough puff pastry. The pastry is thick but airy - the flaky pastry and tarts best devoured with spoonfuls of melting vanilla and elderflower ice cream.

A simple lunch made with love, and eaten in stellar company.

Rosemary Shrager and Maggie Beer

Grab Your Fork attended Tasting Australia as a guest of South Australia Tourism and PEPR Publicity.

>> Read the next South Australia 2010 post
(Stephanie Alexander at The Manse Restaurant)

View Larger Map

Maggie Beer's Farm Shop
Pheasant Farm Rd (off Samuel Rd)
Nuriootpa, South Australia
Tel: +61 (08) 8562 4477

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 10.30am-5pm
Picnic menu available all day
Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day

A cooking demonstration takes place at 2pm daily
(run by staff, not Maggie Beer, to maintain consistency)

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
South Australia - Adelaide Central Market
South Australia - Enoteca Restaurant, Adelaide with Antonio Carluccio
South Australia - The Manse Restaurant, North Adelaide

And after flying back from Adelaide, I'm out again for a three week trip to Malaysia and Thailand with fellow food bloggers Billy, Minh and Simon. It's my first trip to Malaysia so I'm looking forward to street food, hawker markets and a feast of durian! Posts will continue to be published so please do continue to leave your comments. I will respond as soon as I can :)
28 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/06/2010 12:38:00 am


  • At 5/06/2010 3:04 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    My, you are fast with your post! What a great trip with the perfect eating companion. :)

    Now I get to know what you were up to at Maggie Beer's farm while I was down at Limestone Coast. Looks like a great simple lunch. I am surprised you didnt mention Maggie's verjuice! LOL

  • At 5/06/2010 9:15 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    I <3 Maggie Beer, I hope I get the chance to visit her farm when I go to Adelaide this year. You are so lucky, and I love how you describe Rosemary Shrager talking in capitals :)

  • At 5/06/2010 9:31 am, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Awww what a gorgeous lunch! Love a good roast pumpkin. I have to stop myself from salivating now... and lunch today is leftovers but even then it's another 3 hours away!

  • At 5/06/2010 10:04 am, Anonymous Tina said…

    Such a jetsetter! I'm jealous... :)

    Maggie Beer seems so friendly and unpretentious - and I like to food and wine charge that Adelaide is on.

  • At 5/06/2010 10:45 am, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    totally agree that ingredients don't have to be fancy in order to be delicious. just as long as it is good produce.

  • At 5/06/2010 11:54 am, Blogger Hannah said…

    I miss The Cook and The Chef - so this post felt like an apt little substitute to soothe the wound of its departure!

    And I'm guessing that vanilla and elderflower ice cream is from her range sold in gourmet stores? Hope so! I've tried the honeycomb as well as the fig versions of her ice cream... do you think it's worth picking up the elderflower kind?

  • At 5/06/2010 11:56 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's not everyday that you get to have Maggie Beer cooking for you and dine with Rosemary.... What a special moment to be cherished!

  • At 5/06/2010 11:59 am, Blogger Eyes Bigger Than Belly said…

    Oh I'm SO SO SO jealous!! I love Maggie Beer!! What a brilliant post!! :)

  • At 5/06/2010 5:00 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    wow. you and billy are so lucky these days with all the special events. but definitely deserve it all. looks like lovely food! :-)

  • At 5/06/2010 6:09 pm, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Oh, lucky you! Looks like a wonderful lunch and I can just imagine Roseamary saying those things too! Have fun on your trip to Malaysia & Thailand :)

  • At 5/06/2010 7:03 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    have definately been spoilt, good on ya! Food looks freaken awesome! Have a great time in Malaysia, I really should visit there since I was born there (in transit from Vietnam to Sydney of course - you see I'm a FOB baby :P). Happy eating!

  • At 5/06/2010 8:13 pm, Anonymous Mark @ Cafe Campana said…

    Wow what a cool trip. I love the homeliness of Maggies food. Have a great trip and I look forward to some posts.

  • At 5/06/2010 10:05 pm, Anonymous NADZ said…

    I heart Maggie!!! She is so genuine with her love of cooking. On another note, how well does she dress. I love her use of jewellery to offset her clothes. He rings are so nice - real vintage finds yet i am sure she has a precious story about the one she wears.

    As for your lunch, having rosemary would be gold. i would have done soemthing ladette like just to get a reaction from her!!

    Ona final note, can you tell me how long the chicken was cooked for after she turned it to 120 degrees.

    Thanks H and have a safe trip

  • At 5/07/2010 10:09 pm, Blogger arista said…

    Wow it sounds like a great day - I love the look of those plum tarts. Hope you're having a great trip!

  • At 5/08/2010 12:11 pm, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    Maggie Beer is just amazing. She is so passionate about what she cooks. I love the Cook and the Chef. What a fantastic opportunity Helen. Oh and Rosemary Shrager, I would have been star struck for sure.

  • At 5/08/2010 3:24 pm, Anonymous lili - pikelet&pie said…

    What an amazing experience! I love the simplicity of the food and the message that quality and simplicity is often better than ostentatious fiddlyness. I love Maggie Beer and am happy to hear that she is similar in real life to her show, so jealous!!

  • At 5/08/2010 3:48 pm, Blogger phonakins said…

    ahh Love maggie

  • At 5/09/2010 9:31 am, Blogger foodwink said…

    OMG, you get invited to the best events. I just love Maggie - so warm and cuddily and down to earth. Looks like a wonDERful lunch (insert Rosemary's accent here).

  • At 5/09/2010 9:39 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    ahhh awesome!! I love herrrr! But I'm also jealous that you got to see Rosemary too - I'd love her to loudly yell at how I cook my food LOL

  • At 5/09/2010 9:42 pm, Anonymous Forager said…

    So lucky of you to meet Maggie Beer! What an icon! Almost as fascinating as Rosemary Shrager, for the opposite reasons...

    Did you feel the need to speak like a proper "ladeee" to her? ;)

    Have a great trip and looking forward to some mouthwatering photos!!

  • At 5/09/2010 11:26 pm, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    Having food cooked for you by Maggie Beer of all people. What a privileged position to find youself in. Looks like it would have been both fun and informative.

  • At 5/10/2010 12:46 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    I love Maggie Beer - she is such an Australian icon. You can buy her verjus in London now which is a very good thing in my books! Happy travels - look forward to reading about them

  • At 5/10/2010 11:20 pm, Anonymous Tie said…

    What a fantastic experience this must have been for you and Billy! Maggie Beer is such an icon in the food industry.

  • At 5/10/2010 11:22 pm, Anonymous Trissa said…

    Hi Helen. Please disregard my first comment. I meant to say how lucky you and Billy were to meet an Australian icon! I love her show and can imagine how much more amazing it would have been to be right in front of her!

  • At 5/11/2010 10:59 am, Blogger GaynorJ said…

    You've captured beautifully a special slice of SA, thanks Helen! Hope you are getting your fix of durian... if not I have a rather large stash of coconut durian toffee from Vietnam you could help me out with.

  • At 5/11/2010 6:40 pm, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    Super jealous. How exciting to have such an aussie icon cook you lunch with such amazing produce.

    And to top it off, you got to meet Miss Shrager as well.

  • At 5/13/2010 4:51 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    Looks like a fantastic lunch, and Maggie sounds wonderfully enthusiastic!

  • At 9/14/2010 5:44 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Thanks for all your comments.

    Billy - Lunch was great but I'm pretty envious of the treats you had on the Limestone Coast!

    Stephcookie - lol. She was such a character and she has so much passion it's infectious.

    Hannah - I'm guessing it is. The elderflower was lovely and yes, I miss The Cook and The Chef too!

    Ellie - I agree. It was all very surreal. I could stop not pinching myself!

    Betty - Heh, I'm glad it came across :)

    Phuoc - Ahh I didn't realise you were born in Malaysia. You gotta head back!

    NADZ - I get the feeling she's seen many ladette impressions! lol. And Maggie says to use your judgement but I'd say start checking from 35min depending on the size of your bird?

    Yas - You'd just giggle in reply though. lol

    Forager - Not at all. She's down-to-earth and all about the food :)

    Gourmet Chick - Hurrah, the verjus has made it to the UK!

    Gaynor - We had a ball! And durian toffees are delicious!

    Fouad - I can feel the love :)

    Veruca - I agree. It was a crazy week and one I won't forget in a hurry :)


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