Hugh Maxwell grew up around people doing what he does so passionately now – producing clean, great food that looks as good as it tastes.
Sault’s Chef Hugh Maxwell was raised in Victoria’s Daylesford and Macedon Ranges, where regional produce and wineries are undisputedly prolific. It’s a picture-perfect place where the people who care for the land have adopted the highest food practices and standards. They place organic produce and sustainability at the centre of everything they do – just like the generations before them.
Raised on paddock-to-plate principles
“When I was a child my mother owned restaurants around Daylesford, and in the 1990s she worked closely with local organic farmers, championing the paddock-to-plate approach to food,” Hugh explains. “I was in and around these restaurants watching, tasting, pinching food and knowledge. My mother was a chef and Dad was a gardener, so my upbringing revolved around producing food. Naturally, I took the same path.”
Hugh Maxwell lives in a charming town of 150 people called Yandoit, in the famous, mineral-rich Hepburn Springs area. “We live on a 20-acre produce-driven farm that supports my family,” he says. “We’ve created a fully self-sustainable home with off-the-grid solar power, rainwater and a wood-fired combustion stove.” Notably, Hugh does not have internet there, so home time really is family time, and a chance to be at one with nature.
Working with premium Australian produce
When it comes to the endless produce at Hugh’s back door – a range that would send many a city chef green with envy – the team at Sault know how fortunate they are to live and work in such a fertile and abundant part of Australia. The entire region is usually awash with greenery, blue skies sprawling above.
“We are very lucky to live and work here,” Hugh says. “Aside from foraging in the pine forests for mushrooms or collecting edible flowers from around our home, we have an amazing array of organic farmers that we’ve been working with for many years. We also have an ethical livestock industry here, not to mention our great kitchen garden with our own bees. We can source the majority of our produce within 50 kilometres of Sault.”
Some of Hugh’s all-time favourite things are wild mushrooms and whole animals. “The versatility of these ingredients gives me the passion to do what I do, and there’s a sense of integrity when using every part of an animal. We don’t like waste. Our dish of quail, barley, baked ricotta and sourdough sauce reflects this usage of spent products (products usually wasted), and our customers love it.”
A day in the life
Hugh’s day starts off with a walk through the kitchen garden, discussions with his gardeners about future plans, then it’s into the kitchen to check deliveries and meet with his team to talk through available ingredients, ideas and dishes in tune with what Mother Nature has on offer. After that, it’s time to get cooking, dishing up wonderful meals for the loyal patrons of Sault, and the visitors who flock to this beautiful sandstone restaurant in a dollhouse-like homestead surrounded by gardens, lavender fields and perfectly manicured hedges. Pulling up outside, you could very well be arriving at a Tuscan manor.
“I hope people leave Sault with a true sense of clean eating. You can walk through the gardens and see the food you’ve just eaten,” says Hugh. “To me, dining is experiencing not only delicious food and good service, but also about challenging your palete and mind, and seeing the simplicity in food that is grown all around us every day.”
Pea Parfait with Linseed Crackers
Serves: 6 people for an entrée
Prep time: 1 hour | Cooking time: 30 minutes, plus 12 hours setting and dehydration\
- ½ brown onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 250g butter
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 250g peas
- 2 eggs
- Salt and white pepper
- 100ml muscat or white wine
Fill a 10L saucepan with 4L of water. Bring to the boil while preparing pea parfait, turning to a simmer when ready to use. Roughly dice onion and garlic, and sweat down with 30g of butter. Add muscat and rosemary and reduce until sticky. Remove rosemary. Heat butter to 70°C. In a blender, blend peas and reduction for 2 minutes on high. Slow blender to medium, gradually adding butter. Add eggs, one at a time. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a bowl that will sit over your saucepan without touching the water. Cook over saucepan, stirring consistently until mixture will hold on the back of a spoon. Pour mixture into a mould and set in fridge for at least 12 hours.
- 1 cup dry linseed
- 2 cups water
Soak linseed in water for six hours, until slimy. In a thin layer, spread on glad bake then dehydrate at 50°C, until dry. Break into appropriately sized pieces and deep fry for 30-60 seconds, until crispy. Season and serve with pea parfait.
A La Grecque Dressing
- ¼ red onion
- 20ml white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp red long chilli, seeds removed
- ½ clove garlic
- 2 strands saffron
- 10ml lemon juice
- ½ tsp honey
- 1 sprig thyme, picked and chopped
- pinch toasted and ground white pepper
- ¼ tsp toasted and ground coriander seeds
- pinch toasted and ground fennel seeds
- pinch salt
- 50ml extra virgin olive oil
Finely dice red onion and pour over white wine vinegar. Let that sit and “pickle” while you finely dice red chilli and garlic. Add them and then saffron, lemon juice, honey and thyme, stirring. Add white pepper, coriander, fennel, salt, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Fold through and store until needed.
- 200g peeled blanched
- broad beans dressed in a
- la grecque dressing
Cook beans in boiling water for 3 minutes. Refresh in ice bath. Peel and store in air-tight container in fridge. When ready to use, place in a bowl and spoon over 100ml of a la Grecque dressing. Serve with pea parfait.
See what Hugh Maxwell is cooking up in Daylesford at Sault.