Celebrity Kiwi cook Annabel Langbein says learning how to make healthy, scrumptious food with confidence is like picking up a few chords on the guitar: grasp the basics and you'll soon be creating your own hits.
Ms Langbein - whose TV series was sold to 83 territories around the world in its first season - was in Perth on Monday to promote her new and 19th cookbook, The Free Range Cook: Simple Pleasures.
Her philosophy is similar to that of Australia's Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer - to grow fruit, herbs and vegetables at home, base an uncomplicated menu on produce that's in season and cherish meal times as important bonding with friends and family.
Ms Langbein urged busy workers who viewed cooking as a chore to realise it should be a time to relax and detach the mind from the everyday grind.
"You can be having the most awful day and you can come home and just let yourself be in that space, if only for half an hour," she told NZN.
"As the world gets more complicated and more busy, it's very anchoring to cook and you can feel very useful, have fun and save money.
"It ticks all the boxes."
Ms Langbein said many people had been sucked in by "the con of convenience", whereby shoppers were marketed processed and pre-made supermarket meals on the premise that they're too busy to cook.
Kitchen gadgets were also largely a space-wasting distraction, when all that was usually needed was a chopping board, a knife, a cooking vessel and some heat.
But the most important thing at the heart of good cooking was learning which ingredients went together and then being experimental.
"I liken it to playing guitar," she said.
"Once you've got a couple of chords, you can say `well, I know garlic, tomato and onions go really well together in a sauce so I can add chilli to that or roasted peppers'.
"You can take an idea and expand on it."
Finding the perfect combination comes easy to Ms Langbein, a trained horticulturist who is known in NZ as "the green-fingered goddess".
"You start understanding about plant families and the way that plants grow," she said.
"You know if you have something in the allium family - garlic, leeks, shallots, chives - that it's going to behave in the same way.
"Those sugars will caramelise.
"The umbelliferae family - carrots, chervil, parsley or parsnips - have similar characteristics.
"If it has gone to seed, it will be bitter and coarse."
A good trick was to take a well-known recipe and substitute the ingredients, using rocket and parsley in a pesto instead of basil, for example.
Passing on such tips and cooking principles meant her cookbook was more than just a collection of recipes, Ms Langbein said.
"You can create change at the simplest level without getting preachy about it."Ms Langbein headed south to Margaret River to sample local fare on Monday afternoon and will later this week feature at author dinners and book signings in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Noosa.
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