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Annabel Langbein

SKYWATCH INTERVIEW

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Annabel Langbein

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What can people expect from your new book, Essential?
I wanted this book to be more than a collection of fabulous recipes. I wanted it to represent the way New Zealanders cook today – where fresh, key ingredients can be combined with the global pantry that we are lucky enough to have at our fingertips now we are such a multicultural country. I have created a series of ‘springboard’ recipes, which explain quickly how to make a certain type of dish, whether it’s a no-stir risotto, a vegetable soup, a perfect steak, a noodle bowl or a chicken salad. These little roadmaps help you to understand HOW to cook, rather than just following a recipe, so you can be more resourceful and cook using what’s at hand because you know the key steps involved in putting that dish together.

What are some of your favourite recipes from Essential?
They are all favourites really – it was such a hard job choosing the more than 650 recipes to go into the book from the 10,000 I have written over my lifetime. Each recipe is there for a reason, whether as a great way to use a certain ingredient – something exotic like octopus or something everyday like silverbeet – or because it’s the best representation of the style of dish. I’ve included everything from modern breakfast ideas, like my Breakfast Salad with bacon, poached eggs and haloumi, to family favourites like Devilled Sausages, and classics like The Ultimate Roast Lamb.

Do you have a favourite fail-safe, go-to recipe?
I couldn’t put my finger on just one. What I choose to cook on any given day is determined by so many different things – the weather, what’s in the garden, who is eating the meal, how much time I have, what I actually feel like making or eating... Much of the food I cook is easy to make and uses everyday ingredients most people will find in their pantry, so you don’t have to go out and do a big shop or traipse around to specialty food stores. One of my favourite meal solutions for winter, though, is an oven tray bake like my Chicken Marbella. I like the way you can marinate the chicken overnight and have it ready in the fridge to pop in the oven when you get home from work.

Has the way you cook changed much over the past 25+ years of your career?
I think it gets simpler and simpler, with a real focus on seasonality and making a central ingredient the hero using global flavours. If I look back on recipes I wrote at the start of my career, they were often a lot more complicated, whereas now I know more about the ingredients and how to put things together to bring out the best in them.

What do you think is special about food in New Zealand?
I think we are lucky here to have such incredible quality in fresh food, and to have such a multicultural society to pique our interest in new flavours. You might taste something in some little hole-in-the-wall ethnic eatery and think, “Wow, I’d like to make that at home!” Culturally, we have a history of hospitality – people are very welcoming and we still invite people over for dinner or lunch, which people in lots of other places don’t do anymore because they think it’s too much work. Sharing simple, fresh food around the table is such an easy way to build a good life, and more and more people here are realising this and getting into it. We really do have a fabulous food culture.

Annabel Langbein’s new cookbook Essential Annabel Langbein (Annabel Langbein Media, $65) contains more than 650 delicious and simple recipes, and is available from Paper Plus, Whitcoulls, The Warehouse and all good bookshops nationwide.