Sarah Glover is an Adventure-Seeking Chef
When was the last time you experienced the simple joy of a campfire meal outside? Spread out on a blanket beneath the majesty of an open night sky or on a hillside overlooking the ocean at first light; the aromas of an impending feast simmering in a makeshift pan over an open flame nearby. For Aussie adventurer and chef, Sarah Glover, this primordial event is an everyday part of the job. A rogue cook of sorts, Sarah abandons the kitchen and conventional ideas of gourmet cooking, venturing out into the wilderness armed only with a knife, some matches and an instinct for cooking delicious fresh produce that she finds and forages from the earth and sea.
Please tell us about you and your life with plants and produce? I grew up in Tasmania so for me, nature was everywhere that I looked. We played games in the trees and ate from the land. My brothers and I would sell flowers around the neighbourhood, door knocking to make a few dollars to fund our adventures, so it’s no surprise that when I grew up I continued to make my living from the land. The earth truly is amazing – what soil can do with a seed blows me away.
You grew up amongst the wild and rugged landscape of Tasmania. Was life as romantic and idyllic as I’m imagining? Pretty much! When I think of my childhood all I see is outside, but I don’t remember it being cold. Not sure why that is – Tasmania is cold 75% of the year, even in summer heat is limited! I grew up with my two brothers who were, and still are, my best friends. We were always off on adventures or creating them in our backyard. We had a beautiful vegetable patch as kids and loads of fruit trees so there was no need to go inside for lunch – we’d raid the backyard instead. As we grew older and got our drivers licenses these adventures expanded to road trips to the sea.
Such dramatic scenery and unknowing isolation would have a huge impact on the imagination of a child. Were you pretty good at finding things amongst the natural world to keep yourself entertained? 100%. As a kid, my mum would just open the door and the three of us would run out. We thrived on just making it up.
Nature is such a magical land full of wonder and possibility for a child. I always had an over active imagination – really, I think that’s all I needed, nature provided the rest.
When did you first feel a connection with food? When I was a wee lass I practically lived up in one of my mum’s apricot trees, devouring its sweet fruit. Being a creative person who loved nature, eating and enjoying this produce was the natural next step for me.
What is it about fresh, delicious produce that brings such joy to people lives? I think it’s the colours and the connections with the land – it just makes us happy on so many levels. We came from the land so enjoying its bounty lets us become more in tune with ourselves.
Nowadays you live a pretty adventurous life, jam packed with travel, exploration and outdoor experiences. What’s been one of your favourite voyages so far? While shooting my cookbook, WILD, photographer Luisa Brimble and I travelled to Double Island Point in QLD in a Land Rover Defender. I had never driven a 4WD on the beach for miles and miles before, it was unknown territory and we just went with the flow. It was one of those moments when you feel completely in awe of nature. It was so much more than what I could ever dream up or find on a Pinterest board.
You’ve been described as a rogue kind of chef, abandoning the kitchen and conventional equipment and instead wandering out into nature to forage and cook straight from the earth and sea. What’s to be gained by taking the kitchen outside? For me, it’s freedom. I’m not bound by a metal bench and a bottle of synthetic disinfectant. I’m out in the very place where produce and cooking was born. Cooking within the landscape is a way of honouring the integrity of the ingredients and the person crafting the meal.
The hunting and gathering style of cooking is an ancient practice. I’m curious, do you feel a connection to a primordial way of life as you are roasting a campfire under the stars or fishing off the East Coast of Australia? For sure, there is a connection to the long line of people who have practiced this method throughout time. Cooking this way also allows you to loosen up and not be so precious about it all. You can lose focus of the superficial and instead enjoying the raw, simple goodness of the moment, enjoying that piece of meat on a stick cooked over the fire rather than trying to impress someone with your refined technique or your perfectly set table.
People would do a lot of things for good food. Have you ever done anything morally ambiguous in order to source something delicious? I shoot, which some people don’t agree with. I don’t see a problem with it, it’s actually more ethical to hunt and kill for food rather than buy something wrapped in plastic or meat that has been farmed for the wrong reasons (money).
I’ve recently heard Gillian Bell talk about her emergency kit of fresh buttercream, strawberries and icing sugar that she always carries with her on destination jobs. Do you have a similar kind of utility belt? If so, what’s in it? Probably for me, a sharp knife, something to start the fire with, extra virgin olive oil and salt. The rest I can find.
What’s the next adventure you are planning? The USA with Luisa for by book launch. We’re hoping to journey from NYC to Los Angeles and then to Hawaii. Hawaii is what I’m really excited about.
Where’s your favourite place to watch the stars from? My house. It’s so clear at night you can sit in bed and watch them.
What was the last meal you cooked? Where were you? I cooked a freekeh salad with rocket and spiced herb dressing on my deck overlooking the ocean.
What word describes you best? Happy.
Where do you go to unwind? The ocean.
What’s your favourite Australian ingredient? Rosella.
Earth, wind, water or fire? Fire (easy).
What are the three things you need for a great adventure? Food, friends and fire.
If you were a plant, what would you be? A sweet pea.
Your first cookbook, WILD, is full of gorgeous recipes with great stories behind them. Can you please share one of these with us? (and the story behind it of course!) While shooting WILD with Luisa on Double Island Point in far north QLD, I woke up early and began a camp fire as the sun rose, feeling like I was in a green wonderland in the morning light. This is a simple recipe inspired by that morning. It’s nourishing, full of flavour and bright greens – perfect for plant lovers.
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
1 clove garlic, finely diced
100 g chopped almonds
50 g sunflower seeds
1 head broccoli, broken into florets, stalk finely chopped, leaves reserved
A bunch of toscano kale, shredded into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon harissa powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil
6 small bocconcini, torn
3 slices pumpernickel bread (it adds a lovely texture to the dish)
Large frying pan
1: Light your fire and let it burn down until you obtain a medium heat. Combine the grapeseed oil, garlic, almonds and sunflower seeds in a large frying pan and toss until lightly coloured. Add the broccoli and cook for a further 3–5 minutes – you want it to get a little charred. Char is your friend. Then add the kale and harrisa powder and keep tossing until the kale becomes crispy.
2: Crack the eggs and gently break them into the pan around the greens. Add the coconut oil and bocconcini and cook until the eggs start to spit and go crispy on the corners. I don’t flip mine. I like them sunny-side up with runny yolks, to be dipped into with crunchy toast.
3: Cook the pumpernickel bread over a camping grill or on a stick over the open flame until brown and slightly burnt. Butter the bread and season with salt, then cut into triangles and serve with the greens. You can either eat it straight out of the pan or serve it on plates with the green eggs on top of the toast.
Can be cooked on a gas cooker.
Drink of choice: tea or coffee
Note: Keep your fire well stoked as you want it nice and hot to cook the green veggies so they don’t go soggy. Nobody likes soggy greens.
The WILD Adventure Cookbook by Sarah Glover is available to buy here.
All images by Luisa Brimble.