I was bouncing about with excitement when I was invited to have lunch with the gorgeous Annabel Langbein, her husband Ted Hewetson and her lovely PR Ann Taylor. You see I remember watching her cooking shows in NZ when I was a young girl. In fact, Annabel Langbein has worked in the media since 1984 as a food writer contributing to a number of magazines and hosting weekly radio talkback food shows as well as working as a food presenter on television. She has written and published over 15 cookbooks, doing all the food styling and a significant amount of the photography herself. In short, she's a NZ foodie legend! Obviously I'm a huge fan so I was rather nervous about meeting her.
Ann, her fabulous PR, is also from Cambridge so we travelled to London on the train together. We had a really good natter and I was much more relaxed once we got to our destination and I'd had a cuppa. We had lunch at The Modern Pantry which was amazing, we tried loads of different dishes and a couple of totally deletable desserts.
Anyway, on to my chat with Annabel. She looked stunning and immediately put me at ease with her ready smile and conversation flowed easily during our delicious lunch. Her philosophy is to help people eat well, live well and cook with confidence. She's a really hard working Mum of two teenage children who is always on the go. Therefore, I took the opportunity to ask her what she thought was the key to being an organised family cook. Her answer, which I unsurprisingly wholeheartedly agree with, was having a well organised pantry and storecupboard with a good stock of basic ingredients as well as making (and sticking to) shopping lists. If you stick by these two tips you'll reduce the amount of leftovers which can be a waste of food and money if you don't use them. If you have leftovers use them creatively to create another meal the next night, don't leave them lingering in the fridge for days on end.
On her brilliant website there is a Kitchen Know How section with hints and tips and an Annabel's Pantry section with details of the store cupboard ingredients she can't bear to be without along with suggestions of how make good use of them.
I also took the opportunity to pick her brain for tips on quick fix meals and ways to make meals go further. Annabel suggested using tinned beans, pulses and chick peas, as well as tins or cartons tomatoes and tuna which are inexpensive, healthy, and can be used to create meals in a flash. They can also be added to soups, salads, pasta bakes and stews to bulk them out and make them go further.
So what are Annabel's ultimate standby meals for when everyone is tired and hungry and you need to run on autopilot in the kitchen?
Roast Chicken and Vegetables. Throw a nice whole chicken or chicken pieces into the oven with some garlic cloves, halved onions, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, maybe some herbs, etc and let the oven do its work for an hour or so, depending on the size of the chicken. It’s a no brainer that everyone loves.
Versatile Stir-fry made with either a rolled and sliced omelette (for a vegetarian meal), or pork, chicken, or beef mince. Fire up the wok and add Asian flavours of ginger and garlic, soy and chilli with loads of seasonal vegetables and straight to wok noodles. If you can add a tin of drained chopped waterchestnuts and some fresh coriander or mint just before serving.
The Wrap Platter. Cook up mince (or mixed pulses for a vegetarian option) with tinned tomatoes, Mexican spices or shop bought taco sauce mix. Serve with warmed soft flour tortillas, loads of salad vegetables such as grated carrots, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber etc, grated cheese, sour cream and salsa.
We also talked loads about her new book and TV series called The Free Range Cook which I blogged about here.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Annabel has now launched a new Fresh Everyday campaign. She has blogged about it here, do check out her blog it's fab! Fresh Everyday, features videos showing how easy it is to make delicious meals for family and friends using some of Annabel's favourite products.
Annabel would also love to hear what you think about the Fresh Everyday recipes - Tweet her using the following #hashtags and she’ll give a signed copy of Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook to one lucky Tweeter.
The #hastags are as follows:
For Tuscan Beef Ragu, use #FEDragu.
For Chicken Laksa use #FEDlaksa.
For Asparagus, Spinach and Lemon Risotto use #FEDrisotto.
For Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce use #FEDsteak.
And for Barbecued Lamb with Rosemary Chilli Sauce use #FEDlamb.
It was a delicious and informative lunch and Annabel was a delightful dining companion, as were her very handsome husband Ted and lovely PR Ann. My heartfelt thanks to all of them for a great meal and the most fun I've had over a restaurant lunch in a long time.