Annabel Langbein has written and published 21 cookbooks and starred in her award-winning television series, Annabel Langbein: The Free Range Cook. Her fun, down-to-earth approach, no-fail recipes and clever kitchen tips and tricks have earned her a passionate international following.
She believes that preparing and sharing simple but delicious food is the cornerstone of a good life, and has made it her mission to empower and inspire us all to eat more fresh seasonal produce and fewer barcodes. “While I love to cook, I don’t want to spend hours in the process. If I can skip or simplify a step and get the same result, I will. That’s an advantage of being a self-taught cook.”
Annabel’s core values of sustainability, provenance and community resonate with audiences around the globe. “In a world that places so many demands on our lives, taking a few minutes to prepare a meal and enjoy the ritual of eating together provides a rhythm to daily life and gives us a sense of belonging and connection,” she says.
As a busy mother of two, Annabel believes that fresh seasonal produce needs little in the way of time-consuming preparation. “Home cooking isn’t about performance food and fancy tricks, it’s about nourishment, resourcefulness and care,” she says.
Inspired by daily harvests from her vegetable garden and orchard on the shores of Lake Wanaka in New Zealand’s scenic Southern Alps, Annabel’s recipes are delicious but healthy, impressive but easy. She shows how simple it is to use a global pantry of flavors and her signature Fridge Fixings™ to transform fresh produce and everyday ingredients into updated versions of classic dishes and accessible interpretations of new food trends.
An adventurer at heart, Annabel left home at 16 and headed for the wilderness, first living the hippy dream growing vegetables, cooking over a fire and living off the land. Within a couple of years she had become a seasoned hunter and fisher, and was making her living as a trapper, fishing professionally for crayfish and eels, and jumping out of helicopters to recover live deer. No matter where she lived, Annabel was passionate about cooking. Whether coming out of the bush with a haunch of venison or returning from the sea with a haul of lobster, she transformed her produce into delicious dishes with the help of a Julia Child recipe book her mother had given her when she was 14. “Growing my own food and cooking it has been a central theme in my life for as long as I can remember,” she says. “I can’t think of a better way to create a good life.”
After studying horticulture at Lincoln University and a stint of restaurant cooking, she headed off to South America for two years. It was here that she started her first food business, making croissants in the small town of Buzios in Brazil.
Realising that food was in her DNA and where she wanted to build her future, but not sure where to start, the young Annabel wrote to Julia Child, asking for advice. When the great cook wrote back, Annabel sold up the film catering business she had established and headed for New York to study culinary anthropology and nutrition.
Annabel had always grabbed life with both hands, but a horseriding accident proved a life-changing moment. Hospitalised for four months with a badly crushed spine and seven broken ribs, she was given a five per cent chance of ever walking again.
In the path of recovery she had plenty of time to reflect on what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. It got her thinking about how food is a constant thread that brings people together and wondering how she could share her skills and knowledge to empower others. She began her writing career with a fortnightly food column in a national magazine, then decided to create a book of some of her columns. It’s typical of her independent spirit that, instead of taking the project to an established publisher, she designed, edited, published and distributed it herself, leading to the creation of her own multi-media company, Annabel Langbein Media.
Annabel has since written and published 21 cookbooks, which have won numerous awards, been translated into multiple languages, and sold more than two million copies. Her television series, Annabel Langbein: The Free Range Cook, which she co-produces, appears in more than 90 countries around the world.
She and her husband Ted Hewetson live on the shores of Lake Wanaka, which they have transformed over many years from a boggy wilderness into a gardener’s paradise.