Annabel Langbein: American cooking (+ recipes)
Last year I was invited by the US State Department to join its Culinary Diplomacy Programme. The process involved some serious vetting, but once the green light came through I found myself hosting talented American chef William Dissen here. Together we presented a series of cooking workshops and demonstrations around New Zealand, with a focus on sustainability and our shared farm-to-table philosophies.
We cooked wild paua from the West Coast, fresh truffles from Waipara, scampi from the deep waters off the East Coast, saffron from Central Otago, dried wild mushrooms from Nelson, heritage Berkshire pigs from the Wairarapa, beautiful Lot 8 oils from Martinborough and freshwater king salmon from Mt Cook.
With these amazing ingredients at hand, we cooked up a storm. Our dishes ranged from the more traditional fare of Dissen's home country in a menu of Carolina Barbecue Pork, Bread and Butter Pickles, Blue Cheese and Green Apple Coleslaw, and Jalapeno Biscuits (like a super-rich buttery layered scone), to more contemporary global tastes with a focus on sustainable seafood, including grilled salmon with Mediterranean flavours, grilled scampi with Asian flavours and grilled paua with a charred broccoli salad, pine nuts, shaved parmesan and lemon aioli.
It was a complete privilege to work alongside this brilliant man and learn some of his food philosophy and skills.
It was a thrill to hear him buzzing about the quality of our produce and the passion of our growers and chefs. At our demonstrations at the polytech in Cromwell he was blown away by their sustainable and creative approach - for one of their sections the students have to create a full meal solely from foraged foods - wild greens, game, fish and harvests from the surrounding orchards, combined with pantry supplies. Hydroponic gardens supply greens and herbs for the students to use and a state-of-the-art compost maker creates the fertiliser for the outside gardens.
Dissen told me that at the start of each growing season he goes to the farmers who supply his restaurant, with a list of the varieties of vegetables he would like them to grow, and gives them some seed money to buy good seeds. It's not a lot, maybe a few hundred dollars, but it cements the relationship and his faith in them and ensures he gets the produce he needs for his menus.
At the end of the day this is what it's all about - farmers, growers, cooks and chefs working together with care and integrity, a sense of community and guardianship for the land.
With the 4th of July coming up, I've put together a menu of American-inspired dishes for you to enjoy ...
For fall-off-the-bone lip-smacking ribs, cook the ribs first until they are tender and then baste with sauce to make them sticky and sweet. Get the recipe
Slaw is just the best thing to make with cabbage, especially in the winter when cabbage becomes so dense and sweet. The trick is to slice the cabbage as thinly as you can - a vegetable peeler works well, peeling into the angle of a cut surface of the cabbage.
Once the cabbage is cut up, massage it between your fingers to bring out the juices before dressing. This salad is great with ribs, any kind of roasted meats or in burgers. Get the recipe
In the American lexicon of fruit-based hot desserts there are all manner of choices. Crisps and crumbles employ combinations of flour and/or cereal (especially oats), butter, sugar, nuts and spices.
Cobblers are made with either a batter or a scone-like topping, slumps are cooked with a scone topping on the stovetop, and buckles are baked with a streusel or coffee-cake topping using nuts, butter and sugar. This coconut topping makes a great change from a traditional crumble - it's light and crispy and gluten-free to boot. Get the recipe
Essential Annabel Langbein (Annabel Langbein Media, $65) is a beautiful compendium of Annabel’s best-ever savoury recipes and cooking tips — on sale at Paper Plus, Whitcoulls, The Warehouse and all good bookstores or visit annabel-langbein.com