Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roasted pumpkin soup

Last night I made the most delish pumpkin soup for dinner. It was a Donna Hay recipe and it was pretty easy. I've posted the recipe below (serves 4).

  • 1 x 2kg whole butternut pumpkin
  • 1 onion
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • sea salt
  • 3½ cups (875ml) chicken stock
  • 1 cup (250ml) single (pouring) cream
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • sour cream, to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F).
  2. Cut the pumpkin in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds.
  3. Place the pumpkin, cut-side up, and onion on a baking tray.
  4. Drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake for 55–60 minutes or until the pumpkin is just soft and starting to brown. Scoop the pumpkin out of the skin into a blender.
  6. Scoop the onion flesh away from its skin and add to the blender.
  7. Add 1 cup (250ml) of the chicken stock and blend until smooth.
  8. Pour the mixture into a saucepan, add remaining stock, cream and honey.
  9. Place over medium heat until soup is heated through.
  10. Serve with sour cream.

The weird and wonderful

Last weekend I got my hair done and had it made a more natural colour. It was a bit of a change for me...

Today I found this story about a lady called Sonya Cristy, who has grown her naturally-coloured organge hair past her knees and says that she will never be destitute thanks to the many offers from hairdressers to buy her Rapunzel-like tresses. Right on!

Here's the story from the Courier Mail:

Sonya Cristy's long red hair is hot property with hairdressers

SONYA Cristy's mega-mane is more than her crowning glory - it's her superannuation.

The 35-year-old contracts manager for Translink grew her extraordinarily long red hair while travelling in Europe 15 years ago, in order to have something to sell if she ran out of cash.

"Hairdressers had offered to buy it because it's thick and orange," said Ms Cristy.

"Happily, I never had to sell but it was good to know I could if I desperately needed money."

Falling to just above her knees after a 15cm "trim" on Sunday, Ms Cristy said having long locks was both a charm and a curse.

"I've had people come up to me overseas who recognised me from my hair," she said.

"And once Bono (from U2) approached me in the Portobello Markets in London and told me I had really nice hair. I didn't know who he was at first. I just thought "who's this weird old drunk dude?"."

On the downside Ms Cristy regularly gets her tresses caught in car doors and windy days can be hell.

"When it was really windy, like a tornado, I got it wrapped around a traffic light. That wasn't much fun," she laughed.

Despite measuring more than a metre in length and weighing several kilograms, Ms Cristy said her hair was not high-maintenance.

"I cut it myself, or have a friend do it and I use whatever shampoo is on special at the supermarket," she said.

"I take care of myself which is why it's in such good condition. I don't drink or smoke, I take multivitamins, I try to eat the right things."

Brisbane hairstylist Jules Tognini said mega-hair was not necessarily considered fashionable but "any hairdo that looks good is in".

"It's rare to find really long hair that's healthy. Usually when it gets that long we call it "aged hair". It tends to start drying out," Mr Tognini said.

"Staying out of the sun and air conditioning can help, as does diet and avoiding stress."

He said the market for hair was growing, as a result of the demand for extensions and natural-looking wigs.

"In Brisbane we have a lot of people donating hair rather than selling it but it's certainly something you can do."

Ms Cristy said she had no immediate plans to cut her Rapunzel-like locks as she headed overseas again.

"It's my trust fund. With hair like this, I know I'll never be destitute."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gluten-free and fabulous

So last night I made dinner for a very good friend who has a gluten intolerance.

Luckily, my grandmother and both aunties are Coeliac (well, not lucky for them, but lucky for me) so I knew exactly what I could and couldn’t include in the meal.

Basically if you are Coeliac, you have to eat a gluten and wheat-free diet otherwise you’ll get gassy and vomit and have cramps and all kinds of other nasty side-effects.

My grandmother used to make the most unbelievably good pumpkin gluten-free bread… and I used to pray to God that he would make me Coeliac just so I had an excuse to eat this delicious ‘special’ food I’d discovered. Now that I am older and look at the price of gluten-free products on the shelves of the supermarket, I don’t feel the urge so much anymore.

Celebs and other notable people have made gluten-free diets trendy, but it has been part of my family’s life for as long as I can remember. It’s not a bad way to live even if you don’t have an intolerance; unfortunately it’s pretty costly.

So in the spirit of eating gluten-free, here is a tasty risotto recipe for you to try that isn’t hard at all and is really yummy.

Creamy chicken and mushroom risotto

Ingredients (serves 4)

50g unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 chicken breast fillets, cut into 2cm cubes
2 cups (440g) arborio rice
1/4 cup (60ml) white wine
1.25L (5 cups) chicken stock (you can get GF stock from most supermarkets)
1/2 cup (50g) grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
1 cup sliced assorted mushrooms
Thyme leaves
Olive oil, to drizzle


Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, add the onion and garlic cook for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes until it starts to colour, then add the rice and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add wine and stir until rice has soaked up.

Add a ladleful (about 125ml/1/2 cup) of the simmering stock to the rice and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the stock mixture, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful, for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender yet firm to the bite and the risotto is creamy. At this point season with salt and pepper.

Add the mushrooms and a sprinkle of thyme leaves at the end and heat through. Finish with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil (optional).


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Waiting for winter

This morning I woke up shivering. If I could take a snapshot of myself looking down from the ceiling, I would be curled up in the foetal position with a shiver running through my shoulder.

Although the warmer days are coming to an end and the sun doesn’t seem to be staying out as long, I am thrilled that we are entering the cooler months.

When I was little, I used to get excited when it turned chilly because it meant that it would be my birthday soon (mid-May for all those who want to know). And it also meant that I got to dress up in thick coats, jeans, beanies, scarves and boots.  

If I had to choose a season, it would be winter or very early spring, before it gets too hot. There is something so satisfying about dressing in comfortable, reassuring clothing, snuggling under three layers of blankets and wearing Ugg Boots around all day.

Even though I love winter, I hate snow. It’s odd and I think it’s partially due to the fact that I am born and bred on the Gold Coast and the coldest place I’ve been is Melbourne CBD.

But the fact is, I’d rather sit at a bar in a ski chalet with a bottle of red wine and my husband to share it with, overlooking ski slopes and dressed in a glamorous winter ensemble. Plus, the one time I did go venturing into the white stuff, I fell over, got ice in my undies and looked like a hideous, uncoordinated snow bunny in my stuffy, hired ski outfit. I really don’t want to re-live that experience…

Also, in winter you can get really good food produce that is in season and make beautiful, warming meals like stews, soups and roasts (nothing beats a beef stew or a shepherd's pie in winter, in my opinion).

So as a Gold-Coaster, I am going to embrace the cooler months the only way I know how – by buying a new winter wardrobe and heading out to the farmer’s markets to get some yummy ingredients for my comfort-food cooking.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Work it

I think one of the hardest questions you can ask someone when you are at school is “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

While I was growing up and attending primary school, I always thought I would live on the Gold Coast, be a Marine Biologist (because I was obsessed with Whales and Dolphins) and get married and start a family.

Not much has changed really, apart from the career part.

As I grew up and became aware of what my dad did for his job as a journalist and public relations consultant, I thought that sounded really exciting (I always thought that the role of a journalist was called an ‘accountant’ – my mum corrected me when I was in Grade 3 after she heard me tell a teacher my dad was an accountant and that his job was to write stories for the newspaper…) I was only 8 okay!

So after graduating high school and University and becoming a journalist and public relations consultant myself, I’m now finding that I am thinking about other careers that I would take up as an adult.

I like being creative while I work and for someone like me it’s a must if I am going to enjoy what I do and get paid for it. So I really think I’d like to try out interior design or decorating of some kind… or maybe become a cook ala Maggie Beer. I like photography too – maybe I could combine that with cooking and be a food photographer?

I am definitely not adverse to going back to Uni or TAFE and adding a few more courses to my belt, but now it comes down to time and money… two commodities we seem to have very little of these days (thanks mainly to our beautiful new home of which construction is due to start soon).

I guess when our teachers in Grade 12 were encouraging us to make QTAC selections I never really thought about things that I would grow to enjoy and one day want to make a career of. You just decide what you think you would be ‘best at’ at that time.

This all comes on the back of a report that was released today stating that nearly 8 million Australians don’t have the basic reading, writing or numeracy skills to undertake training for trade or professional jobs. I was completely shocked to hear this… considering our population is nearly 22 million, this means nearly a third of all Aussies are losing out to jobs to international competition because they can’t read, write or do basic mathematical equations.

It sounds bleak, but I figure that if you stick to what you know and have a special knack for, your flair will shine through… even if you can’t work out what 7 x 12 equals, you can still be happy, just like Homer Simpson.