Annabel Langbein’s Interview ♡ Celebrity Food Writer

Annabel Langbein


Adoro la food writer Annabel Langbein, il suo stile, le sue ricette, la seguo da molti anni e ho quasi tutti i suoi libri. Qualche mese fa ho avuto l’onore di intervistarla per il mio blog e sono felicissima di potervela presentare.

Ecco a voi l’intervista integrale, buona lettura!

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Annabel Langbein is a New Zealand celebrity cook, food writer and publisher. She is a star of international television series Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook. Annabel is known for promoting organic food, primarily using seasonal ingredients and is a member of the Sustainability Council of New Zealand. 

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What is your favourite type of meal?

I love fresh meals that have that “just picked” flavour and freshness and not too much froufrou. I am not a big fan of what I call tortured food that has been finessed so far that it’s hard to recognise the original ingredients.

Which local ingredients do you especially like to use in your cooking?

I am lucky because here in New Zealand it is so easy to access fresh seasonal ingredients, and we have wonderful natural meats and the freshest seafood. We also have great olive oils and interesting high quality artisan products like fresh pesto and sauces, which make it easy to prepare wonderful food without needing to go to a lot of effort. That said, you can’t beat Italian pastas and sugos!

Where do you pull your creative ingenuity from for your recipes?

I get so much inspiration from nature – it’s the thing that constantly amazes me. And as I am lucky enough to grow most of my own food I can walk around my garden and pick my dinner and then think about how those ingredients might work together. To a large extent, like anywhere, the weather prescribes the kind of food you feel like eating and then what can be harvested seems to echo that. Right now it is spring here, so there is lovely spinach and fennel and the first asparagus and lots of citrus. And of course all the Asian greens – so these ingredients tend to drive my meals right now – we are eating lots of Asian styled dishes (they make a great segue out of heavier winter fare), and light pasta and risotto dishes with fresh spring greens and citrusy notes.

I love to travel and am always eating out around the world in different restaurants. Here I see lots of clever ideas and then, as I am a home cook and not a chef, I think hmmm how could I make that or something like that at home? And I read a lot about food and cooking – lots of blogs, lots of cookbooks, lots of resource books about food and also about gardening.

I also think that here in New Zealand we have a real advantage when we shop for food in that just by visiting your local supermarket you can access ingredients from all around the globe – it’s like having a global pantry at your fingertips. This makes it really easy to transform everyday ingredients and take them in so many different directions. Something like silverbeet can be made into a tasty gratin with parmesan, pine nuts, rustic breadcrumbs and olive oil, or into a curry with onions, ginger, cumin, cardamom and chilli, or into a stir-fry with soy, miso and ginger…. It makes for a very open and free-spirited approach to cooking.

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If you could have anyone in the world cook for you, who would it be?

Mmmm that’s a hard one. I love food that has a real sense of authenticity and that tastes of home and care, more than food that is incredibly refined and technique driven. Sure, I can swoon over amazing restaurant food but in fact I would rather be somewhere remote without other ‘tourists’, tasting something very simple and perfectly cooked – probably seafood.

I went to this amazing hole-in-the-wall restaurant once in Marettimo off Sicily, when we were living there one summer when our kids were little. A friend in Trapani had told me I should go there and eat this lobster dish – it was so good it always made him cry. So I did. And it was just so good and yet so simple – the freshest lobsters, halved and cut into chunks and cooked in a sauce with lots and lots of sweet, softened onion and some tomato, herbs and lemon, then tossed through perfectly al dente pasta. So humble in many ways but just so good. I’d be looking for something like that – bring it on!

How long did it take to write the book?

I usually spend about a year just thinking about a book idea and working out the jigsaw puzzle of it – how it all fits together and feels whole. And then when we go into actual production it’s usually four to six months to create it. For this book we made the television series as well and so in a way it was an even more complex grid – to ensure that in each programme we had a mix of dishes and methods and ingredients so that by the end of 13 parts we had a complete collection.

What is a typical day like for you?

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a typical day for me. I spend about four months a year in production for my TV series Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook, which is a bit like going into a tunnel and not coming out. I have to let all my friends know I am about to drop off the planet for a few months but not to forget me! And then I tend to spend about four months a year travelling globally for work and promotion. The other four months I spend as much time as I can down at my cabin in Wanaka, in the South Island of New Zealand, where my TV series is filmed. I guess there I have the most regular kind of rhythm to my life. I spend a couple of hours a day in the kitchen, another couple in the garden if I can, and the rest writing and planning and organising. We tend to have people for dinner three or four times a week – very casually – so most nights we are enjoying ourselves in the company of nice people with stimulating conversations and some simple, fresh fare. I have always done a lot of yoga and I’m hoping when I head back to Wanaka this summer I will get that back into my regular routine as well!

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Your cookbook Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook, was named Best TV Cookbook at the 2012 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, what did mean to you?

It’s a thrill to be acknowledged internationally for your work, and I guess I feel especially proud as not only am I the author but I also publish my own books. So to be able to compete in an international forum like this and be recognised in this way is incredibly validating and exciting!

What is your dream for your future?

I work with a wonderful team of talented people and in many ways it feels like we are just starting out! Like many people who are involved in writing about food and cooking, I am very interested in sharing with people just how easy it is to cook, and how much fun you can have. When you cook it is such a simple way to feel connected – not just to nature and the environment around you, and to your friends and family, but also to your own creativity. The brilliant thing about home cooking is that it’s not like being a chef in a restaurant – it’s not about showing off and performance food. Home cooking is about care and nourishment and resourcefulness and creating a sense of place and belonging around the table. If I can make it easy for people to discover the pleasures that cooking can bring them then I feel like I am doing my job. And that message is one I am really interested in taking out into the world, not just here in New Zealand where I am so well known.

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What does it mean to be polite for your culture?

I think this is all about having integrity, always doing and being the best you can be, helping other people feel confident and listening to what they say rather than just broadcasting at them.

A number of years ago I wrote a book called Cooking to Impress Without Stress, which also won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Entertaining Book in the World! The philosophies I talk about in that book still very much stand for me today.

When people come to your home the most important thing you can do is make them feel welcomed and relaxed. It’s not about showing off with complicated food and tricky techniques – if you are stressing out in the kitchen there is no way your guests can be relaxed.

Set a welcoming table, arrange lots of fresh flowers, light some nice candles, dim the lights, put fresh towels in the bathroom. I often bring people into the kitchen or take them out on the terrace as it will make them feel more relaxed than seating them in the formal room. Comfort and confidence are key. More than anything don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

Annabel do you like my site? What do you think about “Il Galateo di Madame Eleonora”?

It has been wonderful to discover your site. You have so much knowledge and skills about entertaining and creating an environment for wonderful events, and helping people to feel confident. I am pleased to know you and thanks for inviting me to be a guest on your site.

 Thank you so much Annabel, you are so kind.

Intervista a cura di Eleonora Miucci