Every year, sometime during May, Canberrans suddenly find that they're no longer able to engage in small talk without mentioning the impending doom that is winter. Conversations with co-workers, baristas and gym receptionists, once littered with witty anecdotes about the past weekend's activities, merely become less formal versions of the weather forecast. Under the right conditions, the small talk can even blossom into a full blown conversation that rehashes details of last winter's gas bill and ventures into the finer points of global weather patterns (which we're now all experts in having read the same newspaper article). Inevitably, there'll also be a discussion on who's going to the snow and how great it's going to be - but at the heart of it all, we're all dreading the shorter days and colder temperatures.
With the winter solstice now behind us, we can at least seek comfort in the fact that each new day will give us an extra minute of daylight, and that post-work drinks in the golden afternoon sun will eventually be on the cards again. But on the downside, we've still got a few months of frosty temperatures and icy winds to endure before we can comfortably hold a schooner without losing feeling in our fingers.
So how do we stay warm during winter? Well everyone seems to have their own way - some pimp out their homes with double glazed windows and in-floor heating, some decide that warmth is more important than dignity and wrap themselves in an electric snuggie (I'm still waiting for the day when I see someone proudly sporting one at the local shops), while others stick to old-school methods like calling in sick and not getting out of bed all day. But for me, there's no better way than making a big batch of soup. Not only do you get to fill yourself up with something warm, but you get the added bonus of heating up the house with the stove and oven while you're cooking. Double win.
Last week in Canberra, we had twice our average monthly rainfall for June in the space of just two days - perfect soup weather! Instead of going for a plain pumpkin soup (which there's absolutely nothing wrong with), I thought I'd do something different and throw some carrot and ginger in. The vegies were roasted off for about 45 minutes to caramelise them and give some extra flavour to the soup - and then all I needed to do is blitz it with chicken stock and a bit of salt and pepper. Easy done!
1kg carrots, peeled and quartered
750g pumpkin, peeled and cut into 5cm cubes
1 onion, diced
8cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1L chicken stock
1Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Natural yoghurt and coriander, to garnish
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Place carrot and pumpkin pieces on a baking tray lined with baking paper, and roast for 45 minutes.
When the vegetables have 10 minutes left in the oven, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, and gently cook the garlic, ginger and onion for 5-6 minutes or until soft.
Add the chicken stock to the saucepan and bring to the boil.
Add the roasted carrot and pumpkin to the saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft.
Remove from the heat and blend the soup with a stick blender until smooth. If you don't have a stick blender, blend the soup in batches using a regular blender or food processor.
Season the soup with salt and pepper, and ladle into bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of natural yoghurt and chopped coriander.