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A Culinary Queen


Annabel Langbein has personally penned more than 10,000 recipes.

 

 

I could almost tell you them all too; it’s like this huge computer in my head that would drive anyone else mad, but I love it,” she laughs.

It was her dad that was the engineer by trade and, although Annabel had always thought the “clever engineer gene” had missed her, the penny dropped when she was asked recently ‘how do you engineer a recipe?’

Cooking wasn’t a fashionable thing to do when Annabel first started dipping her fingers in the baking bowl, but she discovered an incredible sense of achievement being able to give others pleasure through her baking. “I would feel useful and successful and have a lot of fun,” she says. “And as I went through life subconsciously, without realising it, I was always cooking.”

It was ironically food poisoning rather than the food itself that paved the first step in her career path. During her OE, she got food poisoning in South America and ended up staying in a village in Brazil, renting a room with an Argentinian couple. “All I wanted to do was cook!” she says. “It made me feel anchored and good.”

When that couple asked if she could make croissants, she wasn’t going to let the fact that she had never made them before in her life hold her back. Soon, she had her own croissant business! When she eventually found her way back home she started a catering business and writing for The Listener. Not knowing where to go next, she did what all good fan girls do and she wrote to Julia Child, who invited her to America to introduce her to the world of cuisine. She spent the late 80s and early 90s learning everything she possibly could about cuisine.

“I found while travelling that food is the bridge between us all. It can help you discover cultures, ingredients, nature, community, and also this wonderful idea of creativity,” Annabel says.

“The idea of a recipe being written down is a reasonably recent invention; in places like India and China, the language of cooking is handed down. People can have nothing and yet make these amazing foods; feeling part of this world is very nourishing.”

It’s this travel that formed the basis for her understanding of ‘food families’ and ‘flavour profiles’. “Food is like music; you learn a few chords and before long you can riff. When you understand the different flavour profiles and how they go together, it opens up your world.”

What this means is that the core ingredients of a salad may be the same, but it’s the understanding of flavours that enable you to transform those vegetables into a South East Asian salad or a Middle Eastern salad.

A lot of what Annabel turns her award-winning hand to these days is driven by ingredients and what’s available – particularly in her own Wanaka garden. It’s 12 minutes from her place to the shop, so if she doesn’t have to go, she won’t, learning instead to be resourceful with what she has. Her Essential cookbooks were written on this basis – the idea of giving people a basic toolkit of basics that can form the basis of just about anything.

“I’ve always been interested in helping people to feel empowered and confident with cooking. This isn’t MasterChef; it’s home. Most people are tired at the end of the day, so dinner doesn’t need to be an enormous amount of work and palaver; it’s about taking something fresh and knowing the easiest way to make it yummy.”

She’s an “old hippy at heart”, or, more formally, a founding member of the Sustainability Council, so sustainability is pretty close to her heart.

While a key aspect of this role is keeping GMOs out of the food in New Zealand, even the basics of ‘reuse and recycle’ are important.

“I’m a big believer in getting things when they’re in season, like tomatoes, and freezing them so I’ve always got it.” She’ll cook spinach in olive oil and freeze handfuls of it so it’s always available as a meal addition.

Another top tip is when you get to the end of the week and your salad greens have gone limp, or your rocket has wilted in the hot sun before you’ve made it back to the house, put them in a big bowl of water and ice cubes, and the water will pump the cells up again, bringing them back to life.

Treat protein as a treat and have a meatless meal each week, she says. Although most New Zealand meat is freefarmed, so it’s not as bad for the planet, cutting back can certainly make a difference.

“I’m a big composter and worm farmer, in the same way we understand our gut microbes are important to keep healthy, the soil is as well, so having compost and creating worm farms is a fantastic thing.”

And trying to avoid plastic is a biggie. So why not put a plate over food in the fridge instead? After all, as Annabel says, “If we all just do one little thing…”

 

 


 

Annabel Langbein

The free range cook: one on one with Annabel Langbein

She’s one of the country’s most beloved cooks, with a cooking style that is as down to earth as her personality. Metropol talks to Annabel Langbein as she tours the country lending her talented hand to a range of worthy causes such as Life Education Trust Canterbury.

Annabel Langbein

How did your love of cooking and baking begin?

When I was very little I used to love hanging out with my mother in the kitchen. She was an amazing baker and there were always delicious beaters and bowls to lick! But before long, I was in there helping to stir and roll, mixing cakes and biscuits. I just loved it. I discovered a magical sense of making people happy when I appeared with a batch of fresh-made biscuits or a cake. As a young kid it was wonderful to get that feeling of success and usefulness. I was hooked for life.

Why do you think your recipes and therefore your cook books have struck such a strong chord in New Zealand?

I’m a very busy person but I like to eat well and I love making food that brings people together around the table. When I started cooking, often things didn’t work out, or I would get lost trying to follow a complicated recipe – and whenever this happened I would lose confidence.
I think a large part of my own success as a writer of recipes comes down to practicality – the recipes use everyday ingredients, they don’t take forever for make, they work and most importantly they taste yummy (you’d think that would be a given, but trust me, it isn’t). When I’m cooking for myself I spend a lot of time working out how to streamline the process and make it failsafe, and I figure if it works for me in my busy life then hopefully it will be useful for other people.

Your new book ESSENTIAL Volume Two: Sweet Treats for Every Occasion is all about the sweet side of life. Are you a bit of a sweet tooth yourself and what are some of your favourite recipes?

I actually don’t have a very sweet tooth, but I love to bake and when I make something sweet I want it to be fabulous. Baking and dessert making is an area of cooking where a good recipe is absolutely crucial, as it’s all about chemistry and ratios.
I love making biscuits to have in the tins when people come over or to take to someone as a little gift. My legendary chocolate chippie biscuits have evolved out of my mother’s recipe, and I love that wonderful idea of carrying on the torch. And I love to make cakes, as they deliver such a sense of celebration that makes any occasion a special occasion.
When I’ve got friends coming over for dinner I’ll always make a dessert as it’s such an easy way to make people feel treated. I love desserts that you can make in advance, from my tart tatin with its gorgeous, rich caramelised apples and crisp pillowy crust, to the silkiest chilled spiced orange crème caramels, my vegan frozen caramel cheesecake, my incredible ice-cream cassata with mandarin and pistachios and my rolled pavlova with apricot cream

How does it feel as a beloved New Zealand personality, to be in a position to support and raise awareness of incredibly worthy causes such as the Life Education Trust Canterbury?

That’s a very nice thing of you to say. I do feel very beloved and it’s something very special for me that I never take for granted. I just love it when people come up to me excitedly to tell me what they’ve been cooking, or that I have helped them to feel confidence and success in the kitchen. I love being part of people’s lives like this, it’s an honour. And being in this trusted position does mean that I can help to make change and put my weight behind important initiatives like Life Education Trust Canterbury. The work they do to help kids build a sense of self-esteem and make healthy choices is so important. If the next generation can grow to be strong and healthy and happy then our New Zealand society will be strong and healthy and happy.

What is the most enjoyable or fulfilling aspect of what you do?

I think it’s about helping people to feel empowered. In my own life I have found cooking to be a rich, strong thread that weaves all the bits of my life together and I feel there is so much merit in the idea of building a good life and a strong family around the table. Food and cooking connects us to nature and the environment, to our friends and family, to our own culture and community, and when we cook with a new and unfamiliar ingredient from some foreign shore it connects us to other cultures. Best of all it connects us to our own creativity.

Check out our competition to win a copy of Annabel’s latest book here  Win with Metropol: Annabel Langbein cookbook Essential Volume Two: Sweet Treats for Every Occasion

Essential Volume Two: Sweet Treats for Every Occasion

Win with Metropol: Annabel Langbein cookbook Essential Volume Two: Sweet Treats for Every Occasion

In Essential Volume Two: Sweet Treats for Every Occasion, bestselling New Zealand cookbook author Annabel Langbein shares her best-ever versions of just about every sweet recipe you could dream of.

Essential Volume Two: Sweet Treats for Every Occasion

Featuring everything from nostalgic baking classics to modern vegan desserts, this comprehensive compendium is the only book you’ll ever need to bring a little sweetness to your life. To enter to win a copy visit www.metropol.co.nz/win, put in your details and tick the competitions you want to enter. Entries close on Monday 21 May and winners will be notified on Tuesday 22 May.

Armstrong Prestige

In the driver’s seat: Armstrong Prestige where great customer service drives them

Strong customer relationships are one of the pillars of commercial success, but Armstrong Prestige has taken this concept to the next level.

Armstrong Prestige

The company recently flew some of its best customers down to Warbirds Over Wanaka, cooked up a storm with celebrity chef Annabel Langbein and got the ladies out on the track to experience some of their finest vehicles with Ladies Day at Ruapuna.

There are, of course, great vehicles constantly showing up too, with the all new X-Class that arrived mid-April. Just one of the new models in the Mercedes-Benz family, the highly anticipated top of the range utility vehicle is catered to light commercial applications.
“It features a rare combination of striking looks, raw power and beautiful interior design – including intelligent networking, high ride comfort and refined finishes,” Armstrong Prestige’s Simon Spencer Xu says.
The new AMG Performance Centre is now set to open mid-June. The second showroom to be built in New Zealand, it’s the Christchurch incarnation of a global initiative giving dedicated space to Mercedes-AMG product, with motorsport-themed display areas and specialist staff trained at AMG headquarters in Affalterbach. In conjunction with the Performance Centre opening, Armstrong’s showroom is also getting a makeover.
There is always something to look forward to down at Armstrong Prestige, with a team of sincere people genuinely dedicated to getting you into the right vehicle and continuing to provide the latest in quality vehicles and service.
For more information, visit the showroom at 6 Detroit Place, phone
03-343 2468 or visit armstrongmotorgroup.com.

The charitable social calendar

The charitable social calendar: local events with a community or charitable trust

We share our city with some incredible people who put heart, mind and soul into the support of philanthropic endeavours, so much so that we couldn’t possibly hope to list them all.

The charitable social calendar

What we can do however, is list some of the upcoming events on the local social calendar which have been formed to support the vital charitable services that are at the heart of a strong community. We hope you enjoy.

Battle of the artists

Art Battle is live, competitive painting where 12 of Christchurch’s top artists have just 20 minutes to paint a canvas. The audience votes for the winner and all artworks are available by silent auction on the night.
But what is perhaps the most exciting aspect of this endeavour, is that it supports the charity ‘Just Peoples’ which was set up to connect Kiwis with the means and desire to join the fight against global poverty with small, locally led micro-projects across Asia and Africa.
Sunday 6 May from 5:30-9:30pm
Sixty6 on the corner Peterborough and Durham Streets
For tickets visit www.eventbrite.co.nz

Philanthropic fare

It’s an iconic mystery dining experience and it’s all in support of Ronald McDonald House. Arrive with your guests at the pre-dinner function and enjoy a glass of champagne and canapes. This is where excitement builds with a live auction, before you find out where you will be dining for the night with a live mystery dining draw.
From exclusive local restaurants to private chefs at unique dining destinations, Supper Club Christchurch is sure to impress your dinner guests.
Friday 15 June from 5:30pm until late
Pre-dinner location to be revealed soon, mystery dinner location announced on the night
For bookings contact Robyn Medlicott on 027 225 5221 or robyn@rmhsi.org.nz

A charitable cook

Life Education Trust Canterbury is very lucky to have the opportunity to host a fundraising event alongside Annabel Langbein.
Ticket proceeds will go directly to Life Education Trust Canterbury, enabling this talented team to continue delivering health educational lessons to 20,000 primary and intermediate school children in Canterbury each year.
During this exclusive event the second volume Essentials cookbook will be launched and Annabel will share stories from her free-range life as well as top tips and tricks to help you become a more confident and creative cook.
Monday 7 May from 6:30-8:30pm
St Margaret’s College, Charles Luney Auditorium
Tickets are available on www.eventfinda.co.nz

Wham Bam Author Jam

We have a lot of talented authors in this beautiful country of ours, and Addington Raceway wanted to create a place for the public to meet them and perhaps find their next favourite!
The event will feature local authors and even some from further afield, with ticket and raffle proceeds supporting the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. So, grab the family, grab your friends and head to Wham Bam Author Jam!
Saturday 24 November, 10am-4pm
Addington Raceway 75 Jack Hinton Drive, Addington
Tickets are available on www.eventfinda.co.nz