Review: ‘The Free Range Cook’ by Annabel Langbein

A short while ago I had the really exciting opportunity of interviewing one of New Zealand’s best loved food writers, Annabel Langbein, for an online magazine called The Foodie Bugle. Annabel was visiting the UK having just published a new cookbook and launched TV series called The Free Range Cook.

I have been so enthralled with this book since receiving it that I wanted to share a few words about it with you here too.

Although, as you are probably starting to guess, I am slightly obsessed with cookbooks, for me, it feels like ‘The Free Range Cook’ most sums up the kind of food I love to cook but also gives me great scope to challenge myself to further improve my skills and my approach to cooking.

Two things really stuck with me following my interview with Annabel. The first is that she has a family mantra which is to “eat food, not barcodes,” which seems pretty simple yet sensible to me. Annabel tries to ensure that family week-day cooking is quick and easy and need take no more than fifteen minutes of your time. She also tries hard to make sure her family sit down together to eat and during evening meals they light a candle to make it almost like a ritual.
The second thing was her philosophy “the closer you get to the source, the better your food is likely to taste.” Again, this is something that I am really starting to learn how to embrace, perhaps even more so as a result of becoming a food blogger. The quality of the food that you select is so important, but even so, good food needn’t be expensive.
Chapters in the book are organised in a really organic and natural style; From the Oven, From the Garden, From the Farm, From Lake and Sea, From the Larder and From the Orchard and are beautifully shot against a backdrop of some of New Zealand’s most amazing landscapes.  There are also sidebars beside some of the recipes with clever ‘Fridge Fixing’ suggestions, where some parts of the recipe may be made in advance or stored or used to combine something else. For example, roasting and adding a bulb of garlic quickly turns Mayonnaise into Roasted Garlic Aioli and you could roast an extra bulb and store it in oil in the fridge for later use in dressings, sauces and risotto.  Recipes cover many different aspects of cooking such as baking, cooking outdoors, cooking with home grown produce (including tips for creating a vegetable garden), preserving, making jams, dips, sauces and marinades as well as putting together meals and menu plans for simple entertaining.

Annabel’s focus, really, is to make the best of everything that nature has to offer. She promises that anyone can make her ‘Busy People’s Bread,’ a one-mix dough which rises in the oven with no requirement to knead. She encourages you to try planting even a small window box of fresh herbs or visit a farm or farmers’ market for the freshest seasonal produce you can find.
Recipes are simple, down-to-earth and inspiring. A few that immediately caught my attention were the Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Fresh Cheese and Pitta Breads, Goat Cheese and Spinach Soufflés and Crispy Pork Belly.
Slow roasted tomatoes with fresh cheese and pitta bread.
Photography copyright Annabel Langbein Media 2010
Goat's cheese and spinach souffle.     Crispy pork belly.
Annabel’s style of cooking seems easy to adopt and she has a really relaxed, laid-back approach to her instruction. I am also especially excited to make the Strawberry Cloud Cake (how good does this look?!) and will post separately next week to tell you how I got on.
Strawberry cloud cake from
Thank you to Octopus Publishing for my review copy of this lovely book

Comments

  1. Gianna says

    >The GFC widget is down right now. I will follow as soon as it comes back.
    I subscribed by email.

  2. sumn says

    >My favorite season is late summer when my tomatoes start coming in. I have green tomatoes on my plants now, and I can't wait until they start to ripen. They are so much better than the store bought ones.

  3. fiona maclean says

    >My favourite season for fresh produce is spring. The flavours are so fresh after winter and there's the promise of summer fifimac at hotmail dot com

  4. sweetsue says

    >Summer is my favorite. Today I had strawberries, blueberries, a tangerine, and watermelon!
    smchester at gmail dot com

  5. Amber says

    >I like Fabulicious Food on Facebook – my FB name is Amanda Moore
    Thank you for the giveaway :)
    hurdler4eva(at)gmail(dot)com

  6. Amber says

    >I follow your blog publicly with google friend connect
    Thank you for the giveaway :)
    hurdler4eva(at)gmail(dot)com

  7. Amber says

    >I love summer for fresh asparagus, eggplant etc.
    Thank you for the giveaway :)
    hurdler4eva(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. Deborah says

    >My favorite season for cooking with produce is autumn. I love rich, earthy vegetable stews but enjoy the option of cooking with lighter fare like tomatoes, fall greens and peas. asthenight at gmail dot com

  9. janet @ the taste space says

    >This looks like a wonderful cookbook! I love to cook by season… and there is no better season for its produce than summer! Bring it on! :)

  10. emily13 says

    >I love cooking early Autumn, you can start to make hearty stews, I can use the potatoes from the garden, there's usually other veg still growing here too, plus the neighbours give me apples and rhubarb so i can make lots of lovely crumbles.

  11. mycustardpie.com says

    >Well, having just won Prepped via your lovely blog I feel a bit guilty commenting. The problem is I'm a bit of a cook book addict too and your description had me hooked – the pork belly and the cloud cake had me itching to start turning the pages myself! My favourite season to cook is autumn – time to get the rich stews and casseroles out while fruits of the hedgerows are still abundant for a blackberry and apple crumble to warm you up after a country walk to pick sloes for gin.

  12. nickandkatherine says

    >I tweeted the post using @mumoffunkids. Didn't use the link button as didn't want to allow access, but have tweeted the link.

  13. nickandkatherine says

    >My favourite season to cook with fresh produce would have to be the late summer/early autumn. Tomatoes, courgettes, fresh potatoes, beetroot. Making anything from hearty stews to fresh salads. These ingredients are so very versatile.