Home alone with New Zealand's top chefs

What do great cooks eat when they're home alone? Seven top chefs let us inside their kitchens.

Annabel Langbein - cookbook author, cooking show host

Often when I'm on my own, I come home and it's late and I'm tired and I just want that really quick fix, but I want something healthy. This dish is like my go-to.

People often think they haven't got time to cook, that it's going to be some kind of drama. But the great thing about home cooking is it isn't performance food; it's about nourishment and looking after yourself.

What I like about a dish like this, is it's got everything in one. It's got the protein and it's got the flavour and it's got the greens and it's in the one bowl.


One of the things for a lot of people who are working [is] they think they can't be bothered, because "it's just me".

But, in a way, it's part of honouring yourself. You go, "Well, I deserve something nice." It can be a real high point; you're not meeting other people's expectations, you're just enjoying yourself.

One of the wonderful things about cooking is that you could have had a really crappy day at work, and you come home and you've got this little zone that you make your own, where you can just say, "This is my time - and I'm going to enjoy it."

Annabel's Spiced Chickpeas and Haloumi

2 Tbsp neutral oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
1⁄2 tsp chilli flakes
1⁄2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
400g chickpeas, rinsed and drained
200g Cypriot-style haloumi or firm paneer
cut into 1-2cm chunks
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp brown sugar
400g can cherry tomatoes in juice
Salt and ground black pepper
5-6 handfuls (130-150g) baby spinach or chopped
Spinach leaves
2 Tbsp Greek yoghurt

1. In a medium-sized pot, heat the oil and sizzle the garlic, cumin, chilli and fennel seeds, if using, for a few seconds.

2. Add the chickpeas and haloumi (or paneer) and cook 2-3 minutes to infuse spice flavours.

3. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the sugar and canned tomatoes in their juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer gently for 3-5 minutes.

4. Add the spinach, cover with a lid and cook until the spinach has wilted (about 2 minutes).

5. Stir in the yoghurt just before serving, or serve it on the side as a garnish.

Lorenzo Bresolin

Restaurateur, The Great Food Race judge

If I have a night off, I make sure I'm cooking for numerous people.

I jump at the opportunity to have people over for dinner. But if on the rare occasion my partner Aroha's away doing something and it's been a hectic week for me, it's an opportunity [to cook for myself].

I don't make a meal-for-one weekly - it might be a monthly thing, maybe.

Penne pasta with broccoli and blue cheese is just simple and comfy, you know? I love broccoli, it's almost nostalgic for me. It's something that your mother always made you.

The rich cheesy sauce is the comforting part of it - there's just something about it. I can eat so much of it.
It's a reasonably obvious combination of flavours. It's just really well-balanced.

I wouldn't say this is my favourite dish, but it's a nice simple dish. It's easy to cook for yourself. I reckon I've probably been whipping it up for about five years.

Whenever I cook I try to make a meal that's going to become three different incarnations in leftovers. I like preparing enough food to turn it into a bunch of other dishes later.

It's the Italian philosophy of cooking, really.

Lorenzo's Penne Pasta with Broccoli and Blue Cheese

150g penne pasta
1/2 a large onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
Nob of butter
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
40g blue cheese (or more depending on how cheesy you want it to be), grated parmesan
100g or one small head of broccoli, chopped into long florets (batons with little broccoli afros)
Salt and pepper, fresh basil
1/2 a lemon
15g roasted unsalted whole almonds, coarsely chopped


1. Bring a pot of water to the boil, then add salt.

2. Cook the penne until al dente, drain and reserve.

3. While the pasta is cooking, cut the half onion in half again, and cut the two quarters into long thick strips (kind of like the shape of the penne).

4. Add the oil and butter to a hot pan and sweat the onions for a few minutes before adding the garlic. Cook for a further few minutes.

5. Add the chicken stock and blue cheese and bring to a simmer.

6. Add the broccoli to the saucy pan just before mixing in the pasta. For me, it’s not just the pasta you want to be al dente; the broccoli is always best when it also has that delicious crunch to it.

7. Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. 

8. Toss it all together in the pan. The pasta will soak up all the lovely wet sauce.

9. Serve in your favourite bowl and garnish with fresh basil, the roughly chopped almonds and a little freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Buon appetito!

Sean Connolly

Restaurateur, cookbook author

Icecream is the ultimate comfort food for me. I'm an absolute sucker for it. Always have been. Always. And I've got coffee running through my veins, being a chef. It's part of the lifestyle.

This dish is something I'd have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper. The later it gets, the more likely there's going to be amaretto poured over the top, but first thing in the morning I just like icecream and coffee. It really is a pick-me-up.

After a dinner party, I'd finish with one of these and it gives you that little boost you need at the end of an evening.

It's a classic and I like to eat classically these days; I don't like to get too tricky with my flavours. I think the less you do to food, the better it tastes.

I've been eating this for decades; probably the last 20 years. It's just a simple dish you can have as a treat for yourself.

If I have a day off and someone's in the kitchen cooking, I'm just drawn to helping them and taking over. If there's a barbecue, I just naturally gravitate towards the barbecue and take the tongs. They say, "Oh no, don't, it's your day off" but I actually love it. I'm most at home when I've got a pair of tongs in my hand, or a spoon.

Sean's Affogato

1 generous scoop vanilla icecream

1 shot good quality espresso coffee

  • Pour the coffee onto the icecream. Serve with biscotti and enjoy.

Talita Setyadi

Pastry chef, blogger at talitaskitchen.com

As a pastry chef and a baker, I eat a lot on the job: bread, lots of sugar, cream, butter. Usually, I crave vegetables and something light and fresh.

I don't go home at the end of the day and think, 'Oh my goodness, I want some pasta.' After work, I want to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen and get right to the eating part.

It's only recently that I've wanted to experiment and see how to make traditional Indonesian dishes healthier. I'm not a raw vegan or anything. I try to modify Indonesian dishes to add texture, reduce the frying, and use the ingredients in their less-processed states. You get more flavour and it's fresher and you feel better afterwards.

The karedok is really simple to make since most of the ingredients are left raw. It's a lot of cutting stuff up, but that's nice at the end of the day. It's mindless and relaxing. I also use a mortar and pestle, and that's really fun.


You get to vent some of the day's frustrations.

My day job, pastry, is very specific. It doesn't matter how good you get, you always need a thermometer. You need to time everything. The temperature needs to be exact. With casual cooking, I'll look in my fridge, see what I have and chuck it all together. That's what I like - not needing to use a recipe.

Talita's Karedok with Almond and Cashew Sauce


1 cup baby potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup cubed tempeh
1 tsp soy sauce
5 leaves red cabbage, sliced finely
1 handful green beans, sliced finely
1 small cucumber, cubed
2 small green eggplants (can be found in Asian supermarkets), cubed
½ cup fresh bean sprouts
1 handful sweet Thai basil leaves

Almond and Cashew Sauce:

1 clove of garlic
1 chilli (optional)
½ cup roasted cashews
½ cup almond butter
½ tsp brown sugar
Juice of ½ a lime
¼ cup hot water
Salt to taste


Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, grind the garlic clove and chilli.

Add the roasted cashews and grind until smooth.

Add the almond butter, brown sugar and lime juice and process until combined.

Add the hot water and process once more for a saucy consistency.

Add salt to taste.

Pour the sauce onto the vegetables and combine.

Serve immediately with cashews and lime wedges on the side.

Josh Emett

Michelin-starred chef, MasterChef judge, cookbook author

I get to cook for myself once a week, I'd say. I really enjoy 'project cooking' on the weekend, when you go out and specifically buy something like a nice cut of meat or something for a barbecue. It's just those weekday dinners sometimes that are a bit like, oh god...

When I get home, I want fast, simple, tasty. I'm time-poor, so that's my main preoccupation. And generally it's healthy, but I'm not a stickler for that.

I'm a massive fan of risotto. It's a one-pan wonder. I don't order them a lot in restaurants because sometimes I'm disappointed, but I do love them. The most appealing thing is the consistency and getting it just right.

I've been making this dish for a long time - 15 years at least. It's a healthy way of getting vegetables in there and using up whatever's in your fridge. I put saffron in this one because I've strangely always got saffron at my house and I quite like it, even though it's expensive. I don't always have mascarpone, but it's quite nice. I use water instead of stock, because we don't always have it.

Josh's Saffron and Prawn Risotto

15ml olive oil
1 pinch saffron
½ cup kumara, grated
½ cup courgette, grated
240g Arborio or Carnaroli rice
50ml white wine
1200ml water (or chicken stock)
1 cup prawns, diced
50g parmesan, grated
50g mascarpone
50g butter
Sea salt, fresh parsley, basil, chives

Place the olive oil in a pan and warm.

Add the saffron, kumara and courgette and cook through until the colour begins to come out of the saffron and the vegetables soften.

Add the rice and coat.

Add the wine and reduce to nothing. Add the water or stock slowly over a 15-minute period until the rice is 90 percent cooked.

Add the prawns and cook for another 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and, using a wooden spoon, beat in the parmesan, followed by the mascarpone, then the butter.

Season well with sea salt then finish with chopped parsley, basil and chives.

Laura Vincent

Cookbook author, blogger at hungryandfrozen.com

When you cook for yourself, you're doing an amazing thing; it's taking something that's kind of mundane (the fact that you need to eat) and turning it into something kind of special. It's really nice to do that for yourself.

The title is basically the recipe - miso butter noodles. That's all it is and it's so fast, so strangely comforting, even though there's not much to it. I love butter so much and adding the miso paste to it makes it incredibly salty and savoury and delicious in a kind of mysterious way, but it's so simple.

If I'm cooking for myself, I just throw things together, like, whatever's in the cupboard. Every now and again I'll open up a cookbook and find a recipe and plan it specifically for myself, but it's not usually so planned out. It's usually pasta with things in it.

I work at night, so actually quite often I don't have dinner or I just grab something hastily, but a couple of nights a week I cook for myself.

I like the fact that I can make something amazing and elaborate, but then curl up in bed and eat it there while watching TV. I can eat an entire steak in bed or something. You can do what you like.

It's like, I'm a grown up now and no one can tell me what to do, so if I want have icecream for dinner, I can.

Laura's Miso Butter Noodles

90g soba noodles
50g butter
1 heaped Tbsp white miso paste
1 spring onion (optional)

Heat some water in a pan for your noodles.

Melt the butter in another pan and slowly mix in the miso paste.

It might take a while for it to properly incorporate, but fear not, it will all come together when the noodles are tipped in.

Allow the butter to bubble, but don't cook it any further than that.

Cook the noodles in the water as per the packet instructions.

Drain, then throw them into the hot miso butter.

Stir to get everything covered in butter.

Slice up the noodles and scatter over the spring onion, if you're using it, and serve.

Simon Farrell-Greenfood

writer, editor of eatherenow.co.nz

When I'm at home, I try to eat as healthily as possible to counteract the avalanche of butter and fat you end up eating when you're out.

An omelette with greens from my garden tends to be my standby lunch. It's that easy, fast, healthy thing. And I'm a little bit obsessed with eggs.

There are so many arguments about how to make an omelette. I start it on quite a high heat. You want to get it nicely browned on the outside, and smoodgy on the inside. But that's quite controversial; there's a view that the egg shouldn't be too brown, or even brown at all.

It takes about five to 10 minutes, and it's really tasty. It fills you up in a way that a straight omelette without anything in it doesn't.

And there's the freshness of the greens, coming straight out of the garden.

The dish has evolved and matured, but I've been cooking it for at least five years in its current state. I changed it recently because I cut out most of the dairy in my life.

I used to put milk in the egg mixture and butter in the pan and I don't any more. It's still as good. That was a big discovery: for those who said you couldn't replace butter, it seems you can in some recipes.

Simon's Omelette with Garden Greens 

1 big handful of greens from your garden - chard, spinach, cavolo nero, etcetera - rinsed, dried and chopped roughly 
3 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Cook the greens (in a little extra virgin olive oil if you want) in a lidded frying pan.

Add extra water if drying out but the water on the leaves should be enough. When they're softened, take them off the heat.

Bring a small omelette pan just about up to high heat. Add a bit of extra virgin olive oil to the pan and put in the egg mixture.

It'll sizzle as it hits and start to cook almost immediately.

Keep a close eye on it. Jiggle the pan back and forth to loosen the egg.

When it's almost cooked on the outside, but still liquid on the inside, add the greens down one half of the omelette.

Fold over the other side and flip the whole thing onto a plate.

Sunday Magazine