Sarah Wilson – kitchen spy

Here’s my latest Kitchen Spy, published in the Age and the SMH on August 11, 2015. Read it online here.

Kitchen Spy: Sarah Wilson
Kitchen Spy: Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson.

“I work with what I’ve got. Ironically, for someone who makes her living writing recipes I don’t use them. It’s about getting into the fridge, seeing what you have and creating your meals from there.”

Sarah Wilson, author 

Most famous for her bestselling books I Quit Sugar and I Quit Sugar For Life, Sarah Wilson is more than just an anti-sugar crusader. She’s a passionate home cook.

“When people say to me, ‘how can I get healthy?’ I say, ‘you need to cook.’ It’s non-negotiable.”

The Potts Point local can often be spotted hauling her slow cooker and bags of food to friends’ places for some communal cooking. Her latest obsession is gut health and sustainability (cooking with leftovers). Look out for another book on those themes due out in October.

The staples 

My pantry: I like Cobram Estate extra virgin olive oil because they’re Australian; and I always have extra virgin coconut oil, for sweet recipes and for cooking vegetables. This ensures you get your fat-soluble vitamins A, E, K and D from your vegetables (I sweat them, the Greek way, slow and low, with a lid on top). I always have good quality sea salt (if you’re cooking and not eating processed foods you won’t have an issue with excess salt consumption) and I always have an emergency tin of tuna – but pole-and-line only, such as Safcol.

My fridge:I ferment my vegetables, including garlic, which is a pain to peel and really hard to digest raw. But zucchinis are my obsession, I just love them. I grate them up and put them into pretty much everything. I use harissa paste in a lot of my slow-cooking recipes and it’s a wonderful dipping sauce if you want to run it through some yoghurt. I also parboil vegetables and snap-freeze them to preserve the enzymes and nutrients, like cauliflower, which I often use as a rice substitute. I also keep a ziplock bag with offcuts (the tops of carrots, bits of discarded leek and bones), for making stock.

Secret vice

Red wine. I started out in journalism 20 years ago as a wine writer in Melbourne. My big thing at the moment is supporting biodynamic wine, like Blind Corner, from Western Australia. I would have a glass, six or seven nights a week. But I am capable of having just the one glass.

Last night’s dinner 

I pulled out 400 grams of organic lamb from the freezer and put it in my slow cooker yesterday morning with a handful of red lentils, a swede, two carrots and a stick of celery. I dumped in some tinned tomatoes with a bit of red wine, some herbs and that was a stew. I had it with some steamed zucchini, and olive oil over the whole meal.

I’m drinking

I like to drink camomile tea and the best brand in Australia is Ovvio​. I go loose leaf and have two big teapots of it throughout the day. I don’t drink beer but I drink vodka and gin. I love a really good martini and I like supporting the new local gins and vodkas being produced in Australia and New Zealand, such as 42 Below (a New Zealand brand) and Four Pillars Gin.

My toolkit

I have a slow cooker (about $50 from any department store and it uses less electricity than a light bulb) and I like to use a stab mixer (or stick blender). I make up a soup where I literally dump home-made chicken stock and vegies in a pot, I boil it up, simmer until soft and then you just put the stab mixer in and puree it.

My inspiration 

Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion has been my bible since I was a teenager. But another inspiration is The New York Times food writer Michael Pollan​ and his book Cooked. He breaks down different food techniques and shares the same passion as me in that good health is about cooking for yourself.

Favourite 

A green bowl and tea towel. They belonged to my grandmother and I use them all the time for cooking. I don’t believe in buying fancy kitchen equipment … I like to work with what I’ve got, or inherited. It makes for a more creative process.

Most unforgettable meal

Twelve years ago I was in Vietnam and I passed out after riding for nine hours in 40 degree  heat uphill (to Dalat, in the mountains). We arrived and my brother took me to eat. We had this big bowl of classic Vietnamese chicken curry, served with a bread roll. I sat there and cried as my whole body absorbed the nutrients.

Recipe stalwart

My coconut cheesecake. Mum used to make this amazing cheesecake and I told Dad I was going to make one just as good that was sugar-free. Dad loves mine now. I’ve pimped it by adding beetroot and doing a chocolate swirl version. It’s completely bombproof.

Discovery

I use condiment leftovers to deglaze and add flavour to my meals. So, I will use the caper salt to salt dishes, or the brine left over from my jar of olives to deglaze or add oomph to casseroles or a slow roast, and the oil from my feta as a base for a salad dressing.