Sophie Hansen on one-tray-wonders, Enid Blyton and hill starts
It's a delight to interview Sophie Hansen, whose ethos on preparing food with love bounces off the pages and dovetails with one of my favourite writing themes - showing love through cooking. Her latest cookbook - In Good Company - is all about setting the scene for beautiful meals and making entertaining fun, with wholesome food, guest interviews and the stories behind some of her favourite traditions and gatherings.
I started baking my way through Sophie's fantastic array of recipes the day this beauty arrived in my mailbox, starting with the divine fig and almond cake (rich almondy-goodness), the little herb
pies (a smoother and more sophisticated alternative to pasties), the rustic tomato soup (which the whole family agreed was the tastiest they'd ever tried), apple, fennel and cabbage slaw (which leaves traditional coleslaw for dead) and the poached quinces (which then led to the quince frangipane tart). I look forward to exploring many more of her delights in the months to come. The book is arranged into seasons, making it easy to cook within the windows of seasonal produce, and her photography is every bit as mouth-watering as the final result.
In Good Company was released by Murdoch Books in April, and as mentioned in the last newsletter, I highly recommend signing up for Sophie's 'Five Things to be Cheerful About' newsletter each Monday with recipes, baking/viewing/reading recommendations and her trademark gorgeous photography.
Keep reading for your chance to win a copy, the interview and details on Sophie's new novel.
Five fast minutes with Sophie Hansen
Do you have a good luck charm or a special token that sits on your desk/in your office?
My favourite coffee mug made by good friend Kate McKay, ideally full of coffee!
Favourite exercise to counteract all the hours sitting at the keyboard?
I love walking along our lane, listening to a podcast or a good playlist! Have also recently discovered mountain biking, there are some fantastic trails on Mount Canobolas which is very close to our farm so my son and I have been exploring those and having a great time. It’s such fun!
What’s your go-to weekday dinner dish?
Any kind of ‘one tray wonder’ There’s a recipe in In Good Company for chicken thigh pieces roasted in a puddle of mustard, creme fraiche and herbs and it’s so good and easy - my family loves it with roast potatoes and a green salad. Otherwise anything I can manage to throw in the slow cooker in the morning is always nice to come home to!
Which career would you choose if money wasn’t a factor and writing wasn’t an option?
Ooooh great question! After having our children I decided that midwifery would have to be one of the most rewarding and important jobs going, but I’m not sure I could cope with all the messy parts of the job (not great with blood!).
Favourite book from your childhood?
The Twins at St Clare’s by Enid Blyton.
Worst writing/book related injury?
I don’t think I have a writing related injury to relate - other than hurt pride every now and then if something falls a bit flat. But on the cooking side of things, I did slice the top of my thumb off with a mandolin while catering for a big dinner on our farm and have to rush off to hospital leaving my husband to finish the meal and serve it on his own. Was not a great event for us!
Which jelly bean do you eat first, and which do you leave until last? Red first, black last or not at all (not a liquorice fan).
Have you done anything special with any of your advances?
I kept some aside for my most recent book (out next year!) and have asked a friend who is an interior designer to smarten up our bedroom a bit - nothing major, just a proper bedhead, new paint, matching bedside tables and lamps - right now it’s all very mismatched and not particularly lovely. I feel like it’s time for a grown up, nice bedroom at last. So excited!
Spot where you seem to get the best bursts of writing inspiration?
For me it’s walking in the mornings, or first thing in the morning, that’s why I try to get up at 5 and do at least half an hour or an hour of writing before anything else. I try to do the ‘morning pages’ and when I do am always rewarded with one or two good paragraphs or ideas. It’s such a good practice, just not that easy to keep up (I find) when life gets busy and kids are up early for sport and school things!
Which book and ‘essential’ item would you pack if you won a week in the Whitsunday Islands?
Right now I’m in a Mary Wesley moment. Have just discovered her writing and so I’d happily go with any of her works, or Helen Garner’s diaries. And I guess if going to the Whitsundays, I’d love to take a snorkel, goggle and flippers set (cheeky!) So I could float around and look at all the underwater goodness up there.
Aussie novel you’re most looking forward to in 2021?
I really like Michelle de Kretser’s writing and hear she has a new book coming out this year, Scary Monsters, so will be keeping an eye out for that one!
Best one-line sentence from one of your book reviews?
“Generous, bright and warm, exactly the type of food I want to cook again and again.' Hetty McKinnon
Share a quirky habit or something readers might be surprised to discover about you.
I wish I could say I was secretly awesome at Tango or pole dancing or something cool! I don’t think I have any quirky habits - but last night at dinner we went around the table and everyone had to share a ‘secret skill;’ something they’re really good at that might seem surprising. Mine was doing ‘smooth as silk’ hill starts in our old manual farm ute. I swear I’m the best in the family at this (and it’s a very hilly farm). Does that count?!
In Good Company
Country hospitality, deliciously do-able recipes and simple ideas for bringing people together.
Ask anyone to tell you about the most memorable meal of their life and they won't give you a chronological playback of what they ate; they'll tell you about how that meal made them feel.
Whether it's a last-minute dinner with neighbours, a family feast or a casual summer picnic, Sophie Hansen has done the thinking for you and designed menus featuring 120 recipes that are simple, tasty and perfect for sharing. She also includes ideas for creating a memorable atmosphere for any gathering, large or small, plus advice on how to embrace shortcuts to take the pressure off, so you can focus on enjoying the good times rather than stressing in the kitchen.
In Good Company is filled with all the recipes and inspiration you need to encourage you to throw open your doors and invite people in, because there's never been a better time to bring people together.
Find Sophie Online
Sophie Hansen was born and raised in Sydney, and now lives with her family (husband Tim, daughter Alice 13 and son Tom 11) on their deer farm just outside of Orange in country New South Wales. She trained in print journalism (at the University of Canberra) and has over 20 years experience as a features writer and content creator.
In Good Company is her third cookbook and will be published by Murdoch Books in April 2021. Her second cookbook, A Basket by the Door, also by Murdoch Books, was published in April 2019.
She spent three years working with Slow Food Editore in Northern Italy in her twenties and for the past ten years has been sharing recipes and social media tips on her two blogs Local is Lovely and My Open Kitchen.
Through the latter channel she also teaches social media and content marketing to producers and small businesses across Australia. In 2016 she was awarded Australian Rural Woman of the Year (via the Federal Government’s Agrifutures initiative) in recognition of her commitment to rural communities. She believes in being generous with the things we know and do. And most of all, believes in simple, tasty and seasonal food made with love and shared generously.
For your chance to win a copy of this divine cook book, simply read the interview and answer the questions on the WIN page. Entries open May 1. The winner will be drawn Sunday, May 9 at 5 pm. Newsletter subscribers and Aussie addresses only, please. Thanks to Murdoch Books for the review and giveaway copies.