Picture that idyllic story of city girl turned to country life - and you’ve got Sophie Hansen. Sure we might be over-romanticising, however we love to dream about Sophie’s choice to live on a farm four hours west of Sydney, baking, writing and photographing her food, all the while juggling family and farm life.
She’s a huge support to farmers like herself - curating and social media courses to help empower the rural community, and she’s also a successful author. Talk about overachiever!
A lover of seasonal produce, and someone we consider Irving & Powell family, we chatted to Sophie as part of our Tastemakers series.
Hi Sophie, tell us a little about yourself: Hello! I’m a food writer living on a farm just out of Orange, NSW. I live here with my husband Tim, daughter - Alice (15), son - Tom (13), dog - George (2) and quite a few deer, cows and some noisy guinea fowl.
How did your career in food start? I have always been quite ‘into’ food! I grew up in a house where mealtimes were taken pretty seriously. Mum is a wonderful cook as were both my grandmothers so I always enjoyed being in the kitchen with them but never thought I’d have a career in food! So I studied print journalism in university and my first job after that (and after two years working overseas and travelling around a bit) was as an editorial coordinator for a food magazine in Sydney. From pretty much my first day I was hooked - I loved how we brought images and words together to tell a story and get people excited about cooking good things! Fast forward a few years, I met and married a farmer and at that time we were doing farmers markets nearly every weekend with the venison we produced. I started writing recipes for our market newsletter, which became a blog, then I discovered Instagram and all the while kept practising my recipe writing and photography skills and here we are, some 17 years later!
Does anyone in your family cook? If so - what is your favourite thing they make? Yes we all cook! My sister and two brothers are all fantastic cooks as is Mum. Dad isn’t bad either! My favourite thing Mum cooks, unoriginal as it is, is her lamb roast. Honestly, nothing in the world smells or tastes better than Mum’s roast. Walking through the door on a cold evening when we arrive at their farm to visit and smell a roast cooking for us is the best possible welcome home.
Must have pantry staple? Rice. With a bag of rice, a few herbs, some onions, some spices, you’re only ever half an hour away from a good baked pilaf, one of my favourite easy dinners. Add some greens, maybe a fried egg on top and happy days!
Favourite cooking tool? And why? I have this little whisk I use all the time - it’s so good for salad dressings, sauces, mixing pretty much anything. It’s definitely my most used implement. I also love those sharp little serrated tomato knives, they’re pretty handy too.
Do you have a favourite cookbook? What’s the most cooked recipe from it? I have so many favourite cookbooks! But right now I think it might be Diana Henry’s How to Eat a Peach. I have a few of her books and they are all really wonderful, my kind of simple, seasonal, super flavoursome food.
When you can’t be bothered to cook - but need to eat - what do you make? If you’ve got good bread at home, then you have a meal. Here’s my favourite thing to have on a Sunday night after a big weekend and we’re tired but hungry; get some good butter and mash in a few anchovies, a squeeze of lemon juice, chilli flakes and finely chopped parsley if you have it. Then spread that goodness generously on hot, golden sourdough toast. YUM. This anchovy butter is also fantastic in a baked potato, but they take some forethought (aka they need a good hour or so in the oven!).
Friends have popped over unannounced - what’s on the menu? Depends on what’s in the fridge and what time of day! If it’s drinks time, hopefully I have some nice cheese and biscuits to throw onto a platter. I might also tip some nice olives into a warm frying pan with some lemon peel, thyme if it’s handy and a few good glugs of oil and warm that up then tip into a bowl. If it’s dinner, I might have a really simple pasta: rocket from the garden, chilli flakes, lemon juice, olive oil, and parmesan. Delicious!
Favourite dessert: Tiramisu! I adore adore adore it.
It's the holiday season - what’s your favourite cocktail? I like an amaro spritz. Kind of the more bitter cousin to the (too sweet for me) aperol spritz.
Best place in your city to eat? Now that’s an impossible question to answer in a small town with so many great options! Recently I had a great meal at Fiorinis Italian restaurant, a big favourite with my family, the Union Bank is also wonderful, their courtyard is such a great spot to sit on a summers’ night and have a bunch of share platters with friends.
Best food instagram accounts I follow… So many good ones! Loving these especially at the moment:
@anchovytrove for salty, super tasty recipe ideas
@gill.meller for recipe, styling and photography inspo!
Noor Murad for amazing flavour combinations and ideas
Donna Hay for her consistently beautiful content!
Amy Minichielly for her beautiful stories and recipes
Tilly Pamment for her photography, styling and love of #plaincakes
Favourite music to cook with… Anything cheery that I can sing along to! I have a playlist for pottering in the kitchen if you’d like to link it!
I chose the Perry Dress in Madras because… I adore the colours, how easy it is to wear and feel great in! I honestly will be living in this dress!
I’ll be wearing it…All the time! But especially on Christmas Day with some white sneakers and my favourite red and mustard Dinosaur Design earrings and chunky bangles.
Top picks from Irving & Powell:
I love my Gingham Franklin shirt and have worn it for years. I also have a couple of the plaid Sullivan popovers which are a bit of a uniform for me - those, plus jeans and my Bensimon shoes are pretty much what I wear while working from home every day!
Sophie's Creamed corn pasta with chilli prosciutto crumbs
From In Good Company
"I think this pasta brings together everything we crave on a hot night when everyone arrives feeling itchy and tetchy – the comfort of carbs, the gentle, soft sweetness of fresh corn and the crunch and spice of the chilli prosciutto crumbs.
And can I just fly the flag here for proudly serving something so simple when friends come over for dinner? You might think you need to offer more, that a big beautiful bowl of pasta isn’t fancy enough for company. But truly, simple is usually better, especially in this case. And especially when sandwiched between that beautiful starter of salmon rillettes and the salted caramel ice cream."