I discovered YouTube in April 2006, about a year after it was launched. The night is etched into my mind for the disaster that unfolded. I remember being in one of those funks when I couldn't think of what to make for dinner, and wondering if there was any food on this new thing called YouTube. Once I found out that there was, I started hunting out recipes to deal with the buckets of eggplants I had at hand.
The video that caught my eye had was called Victoria's Secret Eggplant Frittata, and the billing read: "Made without eggs - just 675 calories. You will not find this recipe in any cookbook. A true secret."
Victoria could never be confused with a lingerie model, but once I got past the cringe-worthy start of the clip to the point where she was in her kitchen, nimbly slicing up the eggplant, I figured she knew her stuff. I watched for the full 6½ minutes, then headed into the kitchen, full of confidence and excitement about the dinner I was about to make.
An hour later, the kitchen was looking like a bomb had hit. Around 9pm, I dished up quite possibly the vilest thing I have ever made. No one ate it, and there were hisses and murmurs, mutiny and disappointment all round. I felt such a failure. I had never had such a disatrous cooking experience before, and it made me realise what some people go through when a recipe doesn't work and they don't know why or what to do to fix it.
My mission since that ruinous dinner has been to make it as easy as possible for people to be successful in their cooking efforts so they can feel confident and enjoy the process. In my latest cookbook, Essential Annabel Langbein, I have created a series of simple little roadmaps that show the process of making popular dishes, such as tender stews, no-stir risottos, one-pot pasta meals, stir-fries, noodle bowls, flash-roasted fish, vegetable soups, and so on. I call them Springboard Recipes, because once you know the steps, you can bounce off them in all kinds of directions, swapping the ingredients and the flavourings to suit your tastes and the season. Rather than slavishly following a recipe, you're empowered to feel in control, creative and resourceful.
I've just made a fun little online clip with Sam Wallace from The Hits radio, that demonstrates my springboard technique for cooking the perfect steak. Once you know this technique you can use it to cook any cut of steak you like, top it with your favourite sauce or flavoured butter, and feel like a rock star in the kitchen!
This is how I cook the perfect steak
1. Choose lean, well-aged steak. Remove from fridge and packaging and bring to room temperature.
2. Heat a heavy frying pan or barbecue grill until very hot.
3. Season steak generously on both sides.
4. Oil steak all over or place a little butter on top then flip it into hot pan, butter-side down. It should sizzle as it hits the pan.
5. Fry over a medium-high heat until done to your liking. I allow about 2½ minutes each side for medium-rare steaks cut 2½cm thick. For thicker steaks, brown well on both sides and then transfer to a 220C oven for 4-6 minutes.
6. Remove from pan, cover with baking paper and a clean tea towel and allow to rest for 1-2 minutes.
7. Angle-slice thinly to serve.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is reproduced here with permission.