Annabel Langbein is a name that has largely escaped my radar....until recently! For those of you who don't know, Annabel is a well known TV cook in her native New Zealand with audiences seemingly attracted by her simple and uncomplicated approach to cooking and food. Now Annabel is launching in the UK for the first time with 'The Free Range Chef' and an accompaning TV series for the Good Food channel.
She lives, with her family in a cabin at the foot of the Southern Alps (Central Otago) and attributes her style and ethos to the wild and beautiful surroundings in which she lives. It is this simplicity that inspired 'The Free Range Cook' and in her own words 'its about a pared back approach to food and cooking thats celebrates the spirit of resourcefulness, the pleasure of freshness, a sense of belonging in the community around you and the ability to the live in the now, enjoying what is in season at tis very best'.
On first glance through the book, the family friendly recipes are accompanied by stunning photographs, showcasing not only her wonderful recipes, but also the gorgeous landscapes in which she lives, landscapes that I fell in love with myself as a student ( I must return soon).
Back to the food and the book is arranged into easily identifiable chapters, starting with baking - 'From the Oven'. Baking has always been a passion of Annabels and this shines through with wonderful homely, family recipes for sticky buns, cheese and ham twists, busy peoples bread (which I like the sound of imensely) and a recipe that I want to try very soon, caramelised onion and feta tart.
The suitably titled 'From the Garden' chapter utilises the fresh ingredients that Annabel can lay her hands on so readily, both from her own garden and the local farmers markets she visits. It is also the area of the book for showcasing classic recipes for mayo, aoili, vinigarettes as well as useful sauces for your repetoire such as salsa verde. In this chapter I was particularly drawn to the broad bean mash with mint and parmesan - looking luciously green and inviting in the photograph and there is also an enticing looking harissa paste recipe.
Throughout the book it is worth noting that Annabel makes menu suggestions incorporating a starter, main course and dessert to help you put together and plan special meals with friends and family, something that Annabel herself appears to thrive on and relish.
'From the Farm' chapter is written in such a heartfelt way, it is obvious that farming and food production is something close to her and her families hearts, not least her husband who grew up on a large farm. Throughout this chapter there is much emphasis placed on the duty of care to animals, ensuring stock are in the best possible condition and allowed to roam free and graze in the open air. Recipes that jumped out in this chapter included the baked lemongrass and chili chicken, thai style beef salad and also the lamb racks with salsa verde.
New Zealand being an island, fish too is always going to feature heavily and' From the Lake and Sea' includes some fabulous fish recipes such as crayfish caesar salad, fragrant seafood bowl - a hearty soup incorporating 3 different kinds of fish/shellfish and also an asian prawn and noodle salad.
The book comes into its own though in the chapter 'From the Orchard' with enticing fruit based desserts, cakes, syrups, cordials and puddings. The honey lemon cream puddings scream out for a tasting and look utterly delectable served in vintage tea-cups and topped with rosy red raspberries. However it was the strawberry cloud cake that grabbed my daughters attention - one word - Wow!
This is more than just a cook book, it's a wonderful read and with simply gorgeous recipes and photography I defy anyone not to be drawn in by Annabels unique resourceful and seasonal style. This is a book that will remain at the front of my bookshelf. Tonight we are having the creamy polenta bake on page 105, with some grilled chicken and veg!
You can follow Annabel on Twitter @AnnabelLangbein