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New Zealand: A Day in Wanaka Cooking with Annabel Langbein

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One of the problems with doing what you love and writing about it – and believe me there are a few – is that sometimes you are so consumed doing things, it is difficult to find the time to write about it.

Take my trip to New Zealand this time last year. Only 8 days, too brief, but packed with brilliant and inspiring things. So many, that while I was there, I was so busy *doing* that there was very little time to write. I did manage two postcards, here and here, before moving on to Hong Kong (and doing so much doing there too, that I have yet to write about that also, which is ridiculous, as I booked a stopover in Hong Kong so that I could relax and slow down for a bit).

I was watching Saturday Kitchen this morning through jet lag goggles, when I spied lovely Annabel Langbein cooking, and was immediately transported to cooking with her in her kitchen in Wanaka, New Zealand, last year.

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Annabel Langbein is a food writer, cook and tv chef from New Zealand. She has been writing (and publishing her own) cookbooks for years. She is an advert for self publishing. When she decided that it was time to pursue TV, she also did that herself, putting together a TV crew with her husband, and in the process ensuring that everything she did was exactly as she intended. She has been hugely successful and is a household name there.

Inspiring.

I can see why. Annabel’s food is packed with flavour and beautifully simple. The hallmark of Annabel’s food is the bright and fresh flavours, food that is healthy and light, that is easy to recreate at home. She combines ingredients in ways that you might not have thought of, in the process inspiring her readers to eat better at home.

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Annabel is interested in real food, so much so that when we ate lunch we had her own homemade halloumi cheese with New Zealand lamb and beetroot. This was right up my alley, my own book has a few recipes for homemade cheese, and I am forever trying new ones at home. It was terrific.

We picked vegetables from her beautiful garden overlooking Lake Wanaka and sunflowers for the table. She grows a beautiful variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers, it is magical, which you can see from the photos.

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To my relief,  she said that when she first started in the food writing business, she put on a lot of weight. I was surprised, she is so trim and healthy now, and I thought, phew, it isn’t just me! I was a (UK) size 10 when I started, and I have climbed a bit since. I am working on it, it is amazing how far it can go before you even notice, and I am getting back to normal now with exercise. Dieting isn’t for me, although I am being more sensible.

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Annabel’s books are wonderful. She isn’t well known in the UK yet, but I think it is only a matter of time before that changes. You can get her book The Free Range Cook on Amazon. Check out her website too.

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If you love to cook at home, and if you are reading my blog you probably do, I would recommend that you get it. Also keep an eye out for her new book which is out soon.

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Beating a Fug with a Round Up: Beijing, New Zealand & South Africa

Gorgeous New Zealand – near Wanaka on the South Island

I am in a fug. Just a little one. Nothing serious.

I just peered over the parapet at a giant to do list and I now feel incapacitated. I had to cancel something I really wanted to do (go to The Stone Roses in Manchester with some friends – it is a long story). I want to run out of my house and not come back for a bit. Maybe hide on the common.

But that would be silly.

So, instead I am going to practice in a little evasive activity. I am brilliant at that (and I know that is not a good thing). Head in the sand, radio on, bopping in my chair and fantastically ignoring that thundering to do list which is booming in a corner of my brain.

There are many sections to my to do list. This job of mine, self employed as I am, has many lovely things that I enjoy. Then there are also the grim things underneath, the engine that keeps things going. The invoices, chasing invoices, pitching for work, writing proposals. The administration. It causes me to clutch my head in a Munch style Scream pose and despair. Occasionally.

My head hurts.

So briefly, some denial. And some photos. In my efforts to avoid productive activity I went through the last few months picking some highlights. I actually had to go through everything for some work stuff, so it wasn’t as evasive as I first implied. It wasn’t even evasive at all. I am deep in denial about everything. It is really a list of the things that I will be writing about over the next few weeks, a pictorial to do list, if you like. Now that the photos are edited, there are few excuses. It is a start, eh? (that eh is for you Canadians, as it is Canada Day, ahem :)

I best get back to it. I have a proposal to finish that (sadly) won’t write itself. First a coffee. Maybe an episode of Modern Family (as I finish the post I watched SIX). More evasive activity, I told you I was very, very good at it.

Peking Duck at Duck de Chine in Beijing

The best dumplings that I have ever had, and now dream of in Beijing (also at Duck de Chine and with egg yolk custard in the middle)

The inside of that glorious dumpling

With a Beijing snowman

Making noodles at The School House in Beijing

Picking vegetables for lunch with Annabel Langbein, in her garden in Wanaka, New Zealand

More lovely New Zealand

I caught a fish! (then smoked it on a beach and ate it) – in Wanaka, New Zealand

I was told HAD to try a certain burger, so I had one delivered to the airport. Decadent.

Sunburned but having a great time at a chilli farm in New Zealand

Gorgeous flowers near Capetown in South Africa

Climbing Table Mountain via Skeleton Gorge – more than a little work and mildly terrifying – those ladders in the background are enormous!

… but then not even half way up, you start to see things like this

… and then at the top, this. Gorgeous. But not again, I got the cable car back down ;)

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A Postcard from New Zealand – Part 2

Greetings patient readers! Thanks for your lovely comments on my last couple of postcard posts – much appreciated, as always.

It has been an intense few weeks packed with wonderful food experiences, and not much time to write about them. I am back in London now though, for a bit anyway, so will start catching up. And I mean it this time!

To begin with, another postcard from my recent trip to New Zealand for y’all. Lots more detail and recipes soon from many recent trips that haven’t made it to this little stage yet.

(apologies for the paragraphs dripping with jet lag and tiredness, there’s just no ooomph in me today!)

With Annabel Langbein in her garden, collecting produce for lunch

Bounty for the kitchen

The brown trout that we caught and smoked on the beach over manuka chips – delicious!

Bacon and Eggs at Meredith’s in Auckland – seriously good cooking

Wagyu cows at a Firstlight farm in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

Snail farmer and snail farm in Hawke’s Bay – mighty delicious they were too

Beautiful Hawke’s Bay

Aerial view – of Wanaka area

I travelled to New Zealand as a guest of the New Zealand Tourist Board

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A Postcard from New Zealand – Part 1

The gorgeous shores of Lake Wanaka, on the South Island, New Zealand

Well that frenetic writing didn’t materialise, did it? Mainly because everything else was so busy, and with jet lag I was no longer able to push myself to work late as I am used to. I also wanted to make the most of my short time in New Zealand and soak up as much as possible. I am now in Hong Kong and moving at a slower pace so should be more present on here this week.

It was my first trip to New Zealand, although I felt quite prepared as I have friends from there and lots of people I know had visited. The stunning landscape and vibrant food still caught my attention in a way that I hadn’t expected. Everything was big and lovely, rich green hills and light blue skies with little popping fluffy clouds and others choosing to streak across the sky.

In food and drink what really came across was the integrity of produce and passion for producing really good things with it. Great chefs have established a wonderful New Zealand cuisine in a way not too dissimilar to what has been happening in the UK and Ireland. Loads on that soon. And the wine, oh the wine was delicious.

Thanks to Air New Zealand for sponsoring the flights for the trip. I can’t imagine any trip starting better than with a business class flight with the whole of Nurse Jackie season 3 to watch, Peter Gordon’s food to eat, and a terrific New Zealand wine list to accompany it. All while I lie in bed. I am now spoiled for economy but I better get used to it.

As always, a little highlight in photographs first.

Nurse Jackie with the dessert course of a lovely 3 course meal, with matched wines, and in a bed all while flying to Auckland - DREAMY!

Cycling tour of Art Deco city Napier, North Island

The view from Temata Peak, which we visited to soak up the view and have a glass of local sparkling wine with Gourmet Odyssey

Clams at Ponsonby Road Bistro, Auckland

Flank steak taco at Depot, Auckland, New Zealand

Wonderful desserts incl superb tapioca and coconut dessert at Peter Gordon's Dine

Wonderful tour at Waimarama in Hawke's Bay including their Food of the Chiefs

Wonderful tour at Waimarama in Hawke's Bay including their Food of the Chiefs - these are NZ's famous and delicious whitebait fritters

Cream of Paua (Abalone) soup at The Foodstore, Auckland

The view from my room at River Run Lodge, Wanaka

A visit to and tasting at Rippon Biodynamic Vineyard on Lake Wanaka

I travelled to New Zealand as a guest of the New Zealand Tourist Board