The Free Range Cook - Annabel Langbein

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FRESH &                    I
                               f you have seen any of Annabel                in a way that was subliminally healthy and
                               Langbein The Free Range Cook shows            not have treats every day.”
                               on television, you will have a very good         Annabel’s love of food and cooking

                           idea of Annabel Langbein’s stance on food         can be traced to her mother’s influence.
                           and produce. In the flesh, her passion is          Annabel even says that her mother
                           no less keen; in fact, it is even more so as      knew Annabel was a cook before she did.
                           her obviously strong feelings towards a           “My mother was a fantastic cook,” she
The Free Range Cook        simple approach are conveyed with every           confides. “She was a Home Economist

Annabel Langbein           word, every mannerism, every shot of
                                                                             but chose to stay home. My dad had a
                                                                             job in the city but he’d come home and
shares her food               “This book [Annabel Langbein The Free          get changed, then go out into his vegie
                           Range Cook] is very much a slice of my            garden and my mother would make this
philosophy and talks       life,” she explains. “It was shot at our little   really gorgeous meal out of whatever he
                           cabin down at the lake [in New Zealand’s          brought in.”
about her passion          Central Otago] where we have a very                  Annabel says her mother was also very

for fresh produce          simple set up — not a lot of technology.
                           What I love about being there is the very
                                                                             artistic and would take the time to create
                                                                             an atmosphere or ritual around dining. “It
with editor,               simple rhythm of that life, being able to         didn’t matter if it was a simple Spaghetti
                           connect with the community and grow               Bolognese, my mother would light candles
Melanie Gardener           much of our own food”.                            and set the table,” Annabel remembers.
                              Annabel explains that her goal in life            “I started, as many kids do, with baking.
                           is “not to eat too many barcodes” which           I’d always want to come and help because
                           is a fabulous way of saying that, by              there was the chance to lick the beaters
                           preference, she uses the supermarket for          or roll out the cookies or bake the cake. It
                           basic items but aims to grow and supply           would come out of the oven and smell so
                           her own food much of the time. Married            fabulous. It was such a simple way to feel
                           to a farmer, Annabel is also able to source       successful as a child,” she adds.
                           meat from her husband’s farm.                        Annabel never originally considered
                              “I think it’s very easy to be wooed by         cooking could be a career. Opportunities
                           the idea of convenience,” Annabel goes            were limited and cooking wasn’t
                           on to explain. “But if you work with very         fashionable at that time, so she took on a
                           fresh, very good ingredients, it’s easy to        variety of other jobs until she realised that
                                                                                                                                                        Annabel Langbein
                           be a good cook. Simple and satisfying             she had a chance to do what she loved
                           flavours that deliver on taste are my goal.        and make a living from it.
                           It’s not about spending a lot of time or             It was while she was busy running a
                           a lot of money. There is something very           catering company that Annabel wrote
                           fulfilling about delivering on taste while         to Julia Child to ask her advice. Julia
                           keeping it simple.”                               suggested that Annabel join a professional      cooks. Annabel had strong ideas about
                              Annabel quickly realised that the              organisation in America and attend its          the design and layout of the kitchen but
                           philosophy she applied to their time in           annual conference. “I met so many people        was very aware that the kitchen had to
                           the cabin could also be applied to their          who were involved in all di erent facets of     suit the style of the old bungalow in which
                           everyday life in the city. “I’m a home cook,      food,” she says.                                they live.
                           not a chef,” she states. “So I o en think            In particular, Annabel remembers                “We actually moved the kitchen,” she
                           I’m my own best audience because I’m a            meeting a Frenchwoman, Danièle                  explains. “It was originally at the other end
                           busy, working mother and my focus is on           Delpeuch, who became her mentor and             of the house and was oriented so the cook
                           time spent around the table, not crying in        dear friend. “She had previously been           looked out the window into the garden.
                           the kitchen over risotto!”                        President Mitterrand’s private cook and         But I wanted the kitchen to be in the
                              There is a lovely anecdote in Annabel’s        we ended up flatting together in New             centre so I could look out into the room
                           book in which she refers to herself as            York. I was an impoverished student and         when I’m cooking.
                           having turned into “the Michelin man” as          she had been through a messy divorce.              “It is very functional and there isn’t
                           a result of sampling too many rich, fatty         She would go to the market and buy              much I would change. The only thing I
                           desserts while cooking in a restaurant            something really simple like a leek, then       haven’t quite managed well enough is
                           when she was 19. Annabel says this                come home and make a marvellous meal            that I’d make the bench ever so slightly
                           experience was actually a catalyst for            out of it.                                      longer to give me a little more room on
                           her to embark on training at the Culinary            “It was that spirit of resourcefulness I     either side, and I’d make better allowance
                           Institute of America where she completed          really valued and I wanted to reflect that       for composting and recycling.”
                           a course for chefs on nutrition.                  in the book,” Annabel says.                        Annabel’s other wish-list item is a
                              “The course was an epiphany and I                 Annabel’s kitchen at home is an              walk-in refrigerator or cool room. She
                           came to understand why I was feeling so           amalgamation of a few ideas which reflect        loves the idea of easy access to produce
                           heavy,” Annabel laughs. “I learnt to cook         how she uses the space and how she              via open shelving and not having to

94 | THE GOURMET KITCHEN                                                                                                         THE GOURMET KITCHEN                | 95
Chocolate and Cranberry Slice
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 2 mins + 1 hour chilling
Makes approx 30 slices

350g best quality dark chocolate, chopped
   cup sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract                                              constantly open and close the door of        a good knife and a wooden spoon.”          o for another whirlwind interview and
   cup icing sugar                                                       the refrigerator.                              Annabel’s next few months are going      we part ways. But I’m le with a strong
1 cup dried cranberries                                                    It’s harder for Annabel to choose a        to be taken up with pre-production then    impression of Annabel’s passion for food
   cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts                                   favourite dish or meal to make. As she       filming of the new Annabel Langbein T       and produce and I can’t wait to get home
                                                                         explains, “I’m more occasion-driven. To      he Free Range Cook series for ABC TV in    and try out some of her recipes.
1 Line a small 16 x 5cm loaf tin with baking paper.                      me, seafood is the biggest luxury but I      Australia and TV ONE in New Zealand.
2 Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave              also choose what to make based on what       A new book is due for release in October
(microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds). Take it o        produce is available. I’ll head out to the   with a focus on bringing her free-range
the heat when nearly melted. If overheated it can ‘clump up’ and         veggie garden and pick whatever items        values to the city. “I want families to
go hard. The residual heat will be enough to fully melt it.              go with what I have”.                        change their approach and make new           DETAILS
3 Add the sweetened condensed milk and stir until evenly                   But when I ask about her most              choices for healthier eating,” says          The Free Range Cook is published by
combined, then stir in the vanilla, icing sugar, cranberries and         indispensible item in the kitchen,           Annabel. “I wanted to show busy families     ABC Books and can be found in all
pistachio nuts. At this point the mixture will solidify.                 Annabel is fast with her answer. “My         how easy it is to put good food on the       good book retailers.
4 Press the mixture firmly into the prepared loaf tin. Chill until set,   husband!” she chuckles, then adds            table with just a bit of planning and        Annabel Langbein’s website: www.
then slice and store in a cool place. This rich chocolate slice keeps    seriously, “I love my Microplane system      preparation.”                      
for several weeks in an airtight container.                              so I don’t need much more than this, plus      I bid goodbye to Annabel as she heads

                                                                                                                                                                     THE GOURMET KITCHEN            | 97

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