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Annabel Langbein has three recipes to impress this Valentine's Day

My first date with the man who was to become my husband was not exactly promising. We didn’t go out for lunch, dinner or even to the movies. No, the invitation from this tall, skinny teenager was to go diving for paua.

He turned up in a wreck of a car with his best friend in tow. I had to share the front bench seat with the friend parked in the middle. There was no legroom in the back of his old red Valiant (he had moved the bench seat to accommodate his overly long legs) and the back seat was full of crates of beer. George Thorogood and the Destroyers blasted out from two white ice cream containers behind the back seat.

The day was so rough and windy that we didn’t actually make it into the water. Instead we sat in the car and drank beer. There wasn’t even a picnic. But there was a spark.

A few dates later, he borrowed his dad’s fancy new farm truck so we could take a trip around the east coast. About 300 metres down the road, it stalled. Ted got out and kicked the tyres in frustration. I thought for a minute or two and then got underneath and bled the fuel line. (He had put in water instead of gas.)

The family had more than 160 horses on their farm at that time. They knew everything you could ever know about horses and next to nothing about cars. I loved cars and by the time I was 15 I could change the brake pads on my friend’s Mini. Handy girl, I could see him thinking.

Ted’s mother was more interested in cattle than cooking. A good fruit cake and vaguely edible mince on toast were the sum of her culinary prowess. A large cup of beef fat sat in the fridge as the starting point for most meals. Groceries came up on the freight truck every couple of weeks and consisted of little more than tea, sugar, flour, rice, canned sardines and jelly crystals. After growing up on a diet of gourmet meals from my mother’s kitchen, Ted’s mother’s cooking was a rude shock to my taste buds.

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My husband weighed in at just 65 kilos when we met. At two metres tall, he would almost blow over in a strong wind, he was so dammed skinny. But man oh man could he eat! At the start of each week he would kill a sheep and then over the next seven days he would eat his way through it – all by himself. Heart, liver, lungs, legs, brains – nothing was wasted. He was the original nose to tail eater. It’s hard to imagine now – all these years later he is almost a vegetarian now.

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As our romance slowly bloomed (it was seven years before we got engaged and another four after that before we were married) I would sometimes head down to the farm from Auckland for a long weekend, and bake scones and pies and cakes in his tiny kitchen. He proposed three times – the first was quite early in the piece after eating my famous bacon and egg pie.

My famous bacon and egg pie

Watermelon and avocado salad

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THE salted caramel cookies

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