Annabelle White has a simple philosophy in life: forget stress and performance anxiety and enjoy the glorious pleasure of feeding your family and friends. Colleen Thorpe talks to Annabelle following the release of her latest cookbook, Casual Cooking.
How would you describe casual cooking?
It's all about having a relaxed and fun approach to cooking - go to the fridge, clean out the left-overs, make it into pasta. Make a meatball and penne pasta bake (and the recipe provided works a treat) but if you want to add a little of this or that it's fine.
It's about having fun and enjoying the process - with simple recipes that are bomb-proof first, and then encouraging the cook to enjoy the process.
What is the secret to casual cooking?
Keeping it simple, relevant, seasonal and easy in terms of steps - also dishes you can sort ahead to help make the cook relaxed, either for the family dinner or people coming over.
What changes have you seen in the way people cook and choose to eat over the years?
It's much more about shared food and eating more relaxed food - instead of the tablecloth, white plates and meat and three vege, you are more likely to be sitting at the kitchen table sharing a bowl of noodles.
Is there really such a thing as a good time in the kitchen?
Absolutely, it is to be encouraged - laughter, love and good times makes the food sing with joy.
What is your first memory of food?
My mother's stewed fruit with a little bit of cream. We were on a dairy farm so the cream was readily available.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An airline hostess - please stop laughing!
Who was a major influence in your love of cooking?
My mother's kitchen - a wonderful learning centre full of aromas, tips, simmering savoury dishes and tins full of baking, and plenty of cups of tea and talking.
What is your secret ingredient?
Lemons - fresh lemon juice adds acidity and flavour to so many dishes. Try a squeeze in your pumpkin soup to see the difference it makes.
What is your favourite dish?
Crayfish salad or crab cakes.
In the cooking world, whom do you most admire?
Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes and Rick Stein are such a pleasure to watch. I also love Nigel Slater and still greatly admire, even though they are no longer with us, Julia Child and Robert Carrier.
What celebrity would you most like to cook for?
Michelle Obama - the conversation and the appreciation would be genuine and memorable.
Have you a guilty pleasure?
I love toast - seriously good toast I find hard to bypass. I can give up chocolate and icecream easily, but toast is wonderful.
What three New Zealand foods are at the top of your list?
Seafood, summer fruit and lamb.
Tell us three things about yourself people might not know or would be surprised to learn?
I may appear inebriated on television and radio but I hardly drink - one glass of wine and my face is so red you could fry an egg on it.
Soup is one of my favourite things to make and eat, and I have a major problem with people who forget to eat and refuse to cook.
To me it's all about giving and nurturing - two things we need to do more.
by Annabelle White, Penguin Group NZ, $30