Simple pleasures

Green Lifestyle magazine

Annabel Langbein’s extensive vegie garden is the inspiration for many of her savoury recipes. Here’s a selection of recipes to impress your dinner guests.


Annabel says: "I prefer risotto quite soupy, so it levels out in the bowl, rather than mounding up."


Annabel says: "A pot of freshly steamed mussels is such a simple, satisfying dish. To give these classic French flavours an Asian twist, substitute ginger for the garlic, lime for the lemon and sake for the wine."

Credit: Annabel Langbein


Annabel says: "I’ll often soak and boil a big batch of beans and freeze them, ready to throw into dishes like this. If you don’t have time, use three 400g cans of kidney beans (drained) and skip the first step."

Credit: Annabel Langbein

Annabel Cover

Simple Pleasures – The Free Range Cook by New Zealand’s Annabel Langbein, ABC Books, $49.99.

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Saffron Spinach Risotto

Preparation time 15 mins
Cooking time 30 mins
Serves 6 as a side

3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1½ cups risotto rice
½ cup white wine
salt and ground black pepper
25–30 saffron threads
5–6 cups hot vegetable stock
4 handfuls baby spinach
1 cup grated parmesan
1–2 tbsp butter

1. Heat oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan and gently fry onion and garlic until soft but not browned (about 5 minutes). Add rice and stir over heat for 2 minutes to lightly toast. Add wine, salt and pepper and cook a further 2 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

2. Add saffron threads to 5 cups hot stock, then add to rice mixture. Stir to combine, cover and simmer over a very low heat until almost cooked (about 15 minutes). At this point, test the rice – it should have a tiny, hard, white core in the centre of each grain, which means it is nearly ready. If the core is bigger, cook for another few minutes. It needs to be almost cooked before you add the final ingredients. If the rice begins to dry out, add another ½–1 cup of hot stock or water – it should look very soupy.

3. Stir in the spinach, parmesan and butter, cover and cook another 2–3 minutes until the rice is fully cooked through but still al dente (it will continue to cook once removed from the heat, so take care not to overcook it). Remove from heat and allow to stand for 2–3 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

Aromatic Steamed Mussels

Preparation time 15 mins 

Cooking time 5 mins 

Serves 6 as a starter or 4 as a main

36 mussels in their shells
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp finely chopped red chilli
1 glass dry white wine
finely grated zest of ½ a lemon
¼ cup coriander or parsley leaves
To serve (optional)
crusty bread

1. Scrub mussel shells and remove beards. Discard any that do not close.

2. Heat oil in a large, deep pot or frypan and sizzle garlic and chilli for about 30 seconds. Add mussels, wine and lemon zest. Cover and cook over high heat until mussels open (3–5 minutes). Discard any that do not open.

3. Garnish with coriander or parsley leaves. If desired, serve with crusty bread to soak up the pot juices.

Mussels are sustainable seafood choice: they are filter feeders so no food is added to pollute the water.

Smoky Chilli Beans

Preparation time 15 mins + soaking
Cooking time about 2 hours
Serves 10 as a side

2 cups dried kidney beans (4½–5 cups cooked beans)
4 dried smoked ancho chillies
2 cups boiling water
3 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
¼ cup olive oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp oregano leaves
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1.2kg tomatoes, chopped, or 3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes or tomato pulp
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper
To garnish
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves

1. Place beans in a large pot, cover with cold water and leave to soak overnight. Drain and cover with fresh water (do not add salt). Bring to a boil and cook uncovered until tender (about 1–1½ hours, depending on age and dryness of beans). Drain.

2. Remove stems from dried smoked chillies and discard. Cover chillies with boiling water and soak 30 minutes until tender.

3. Meanwhile, toast cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan over medium-high heat, shaking occasionally, until fragrant and starting to pop (about 1 minute). Crush in a mortar and pestle.

4. Heat oil in a large pan and cook onions and garlic over a low heat until softened but not browned (about 10 minutes). Add crushed seeds, oregano, fresh chilli, tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

5. Lift the smoked chillies out of their soaking liquid, reserving the liquid. Chop chillies finely and add to the tomato sauce with the soaking liquid and the cooked beans. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally to prevent catching, until thick (about 45 minutes). Alternatively, bake for about 1½ hours in an oven preheated to 180°C.

To serve, adjust seasonings to taste then spoon into a deep serving dish and top with coriander.

Words and recipes taken from Simple Pleasures – The Free Range Cook by New Zealand’s Annabel Langbein, ABC Books, $49.99. For more great Annabel Langbein recipes see www.annabel-langbein.com