Is there anything Maggie Beer can't do? For years the cook has charmed audiences with her home-style recipes via television appearances and a series of cookbooks. Armed with a free-range chook and a bottle of verjuice, she's worked her way into our hearts and minds as our veritable Nan Next Door. And she's set to do it again as she launches her own home-cooking video series on social media this afternoon.
As the hashtag #quarantinecooking takes off, Beer's videos will focus on simple, inexpensive food to cook at home. Dishes will be inspired by what's in season in her vegetable garden and other shelf-stable pantry goods. "My garden is full of tomatoes, so I did a tomato salad with stale bread - sourdough of course - that I crisped in the pan with some olive oil, and added cucumber," says Beer. Forthcoming videos feature a omelette-frittata hybrid using eggs from her chickens, a beetroot and chickpea salad, and how to cook salmon that's been frozen. "As a country person I can't access fresh fish, so I show how quickly I do it, and how perfectly it can be cooked too."
She's surprised by the media attention since taking to Instagram to announce her forthcoming series. The production is low-touch: shoots take place in her kitchen and filmed by her assistant, positioned 1.5 metres away, on a camera phone. "These are the most homespun videos," says Beer. "Usually when I do TV I have hair and makeup, and someone who does prep for me. This is just me prepping, cooking and cleaning up. It's certainly not glossed over, let me tell you."
She does wish Simon Bryant, her compatriot on their TV series The Cook and the Chef, could join in on the videos but acknowledges that social-distancing measures prevent this. "I'd love to be doing it with Simon again because it's so much fun, but we're taking social isolation seriously."
Watch: Maggie Beer on the time Simon Bryant tried to feed her chillies.
Beer, like many Australians, is doing her best to stay connected with family and friends through Zoom. Wednesday nights are reserved for her choir group, Sunday mornings are for catch-ups with close friends where they share their latest favourite books and podcasts.
She then sets aside two days a week for filming – enough time to produce seven videos a week, with a new video to be posted daily on her Instagram and Facebook. "I've been given the most enormous amount of kindness and it's my way to share things and make a difference," she says. "Coronavirus has changed our society [...] People who haven't cooked before, all of a sudden they're home and they want to. The kitchen is my happy place, so this is just my way of sharing my ideas."