REVIEW: Free Range in the City by Annabel Langbein

I’m buggered if I know where November has gone to, but it’s just about over and I can feel the beginnings of a rising panic whenever my thoughts stray to Christmas.  It will have a bit of an extra frisson to it for me this year as my mother will be celebrating a ‘significant’ birthday on 22 December, necessitating extra frivolities and the influx of family from the far-flung regions of Queensland and New Zealand.  Nagging thoughts of Christmas menu planning and shopping are now knocking at the back door of my brain so this seems a great time to share one of the more recent cookbooks to pass across my desk.

When it comes to fresh, regional/local seasonal food, New Zealander Annabel Langbein has one of the most impressive pedigrees around.  She has a degree in Horticulture, is the self-published author of numerous cookbooks, has a successful cooking television show in New Zealand which focuses on the seasonal produce of her own vegetable garden and she also has a past history of hunting her own food – so, no flash in the pan here.  Her latest book, “Free Range in the City” aims to show the urban dweller that it is still not only possible, but immensely satisfying to offer simple, sustainable food from your kitchen.  There are over 200 recipes in this book, most gloriously photographed and all of them using fresh, accessible ingredients to turn out meals that any cook – however experienced – would be proud to offer either family or friends.

The recipes are indexed in several different ways to make the book as versatile as possible.  There is the alphabetic index at the back, the contents in the front are divided into events – coffee break, barbecues, dinner in minutes, party plates, etc – and further in the book all the recipes are listed again under the categories of “Impromptu”, “Make Ahead”, “Portable”, “Freezable”, “Vegetarian” & “Gluten Free”.  This is enormously practical depending upon your requirements at any given time.  Each dish comes with snippets of extra information, the book is dotted with shopping, cooking and serving tips and hints and – joy of joys – it always stays open on the page you are working from.

My recently-released domestic goddess cooked up several dishes from the book last week and was utterly thrilled to find that they all made up a very respectable amount of food and all worked out exactly as stated – not a situation that always occurs with new cookbooks, much to her chagrin.  The one I’ll share with you is Annabel’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I know, I’m just so very predictable, but I was quite pleased with the way my photo turned out for this one and just had to show it to you all.

Like her other recipes, this makes a big batch of cookies so I rolled half of the dough up into a log, wrapped it firmly in plastic wrap and foil and popped it it the freezer for later.  I used a combination of Lindt 50% and 70% because I’m fussy about my chocolate, but if all you have on hand are choc chips they’ll be fine.  A word of warning – don’t do what I did and leave the dough in the fridge overnight.  It sets like a rock and is then very difficult to work with for quite some time. Annabel’s recommendation for 15 minutes in the fridge to chill would be more than adequate.

Annabel Langbein’s Chocolate Chip Cookies


500 gms soft butter (NOT magarine)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup condensed milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups plain flour

4 tsp baking powder

500gm dark chocolate, chopped into chunks


Preheat oven to 160C (I used 170C) & line baking trays.

Beat butter & sugar until creamy.

Beat in condensed milk and vanilla.

Stir in flour, baking powder and chocolate until just blended.

Chill dough in fridge for 15 minutes until firm.

Roll into walnut sized balls and place on tray, leaving space between each.

Flatten firmly with your hand and then flatten again with a fork to make thin.

Bake 15 minutes, until golden.

Cool on trays.

Amanda McInerney

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Amanda McInerney

Happily nestled on a small farm in the Adelaide Hills, I'm author/publisher of Lambs’ Ears and Honey, a food blog with a strong focus on seasonal, local, regional food and food security/politics. I've worked widely with regional South Australian food and wine groups, iconic South Australian food producers and their various marketing arms, the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market and national food production groups (e.g Meat & Livestock Association, Australian Mushroom Growers).