It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas!

imageIt’s December 2nd, which in Australia mean a few important things in my world.

1) I am going to have to wear shorts, tee shirts and a bathing suit in the next few weeks as it is getting super hot.

2) Christmas mince pies are on sale in the supermarkets. They are friggin delicious, and will only be around for another month, so I’m giving myself the excuse to go for it, bearing in mind I have to get into shorts, tee shirts and a bathing suit.

3) ┬áThe Christmas tree is up, and fully decorated (it’s been up for a month, in fact).

Having said that about my Christmas tree, I feel like every year, Christmas pounces on me out of nowhere. Already, it is impossible to find a park at shopping malls, as they are filled with stampeding people from 9am onwards. People get so stressed before Christmas, and then from Christmas to the New Year, it’s like a ghost town.

At Christmas, I hardly have any family around (in fact I have no family apart from my muse and the ferrets this year), and I have no permanent job, being a writer and a casual nurse. So that cuts out two very important aspects of the lead up to Christmas: family meltdowns and the office Christmas party.

All that aside it’s a magical time of year, and to celebrate the magic I’m going to share an easy to make, tasty and nutritious soup that will get you through any mad herd of crazed shoppers, any family meltdown, and any hangover if you disgrace yourself at the office Christmas party.

It’s also vegan (if you make it with vegetable stock,), gluten free and just about every other label you can stick on a food that sounds good.

EASY CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL SOUP

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

2 cups chopped carrots

1-1/2 cups of dried yellow split peas

6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

Method: In a big saucepan, heat up the olive oil, then add the onion and chopped carrot, and cook for about eight minutes until softened. Chuck in the lentils with the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about forty minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils go soft and start to break up. Puree with a blender, adding a bit more water if it is too thick in consistency, then add salt and black pepper to taste. Yum!

What A Show!

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Well, the Show is over for another year and it didn’t disappoint. We had a ball, and quite a few gross things to eat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In fact, I had an epic evening. I ate two meat pies. Not both at the same time, but over the course of the night. I’ve never let myself eat two meat pies before, and let me tell you, it was damn tasty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMind you, it was hard not to have the thought of pies put into your subconscious. They even had a pie baking context at the show.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong with some gingerbread houses, which seemed a little worse for wear…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are loads of animals at the Show, and lots of people from the country areas. Here I am at the horse stables. I always wanted a horse when I was a kid, but my parents never got me one. How selfish! Now I’m old enough to have my own horse, I don’t want one. I’m scared of heights and scared of being thrown off the horse. I still love them though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATalking of being scared of heights – I went on this ride with my muse and nearly died of fright. Not too sure what I was thinking when I made that decision (we could all say that at times).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, that’s it for another year, and in honour of the great time which was had by all, here is my meat pie recipe. It’s easy to make your own meat pies, but not quite as much fun as just munching one straight out of a bag.

MEAT PIES

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oil

500g beef mince

2 onions finely chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons tomato sauce

1 tablespoon cornflour

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon of Vegemite (for non-Australians, this is a black, thick savoury spread we use so you can omit it)

1/2 cup of boiling water

Black pepper to taste

Beef stock cube

Shortcrust pastry

Puff pastry

Method: Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and onions. Stir until they have softened (usually about ten minutes). Add the beef mince, and break up any lumps with your spoon. I like to stir in the beef stock cube at this point. When the mince has browned, combine the tomato sauce, cornflour, Worcestershire sauce, Vegemite and boiling water, and add it to your mince. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then set aside to cool.

When the mixture has cooled, instead of lovingly making pastry, I pull out my pre-purchased packets (which I buy at the supermarket) from the deep freeze. I get my pie tins, and cut out the shape to line the bottom of each pie tin from the shortcrust pasty. I use non-stick pie tins. I fill the pastry-lined pot with the cold beef mince mixture, then make a lid out of the puff pastry and seal in the pie filling. When that’s all done, I put them in the oven at 180 C (350 F) and cook them for about 40 minutes. Of course, you can add other things to the mixture, like peas, bacon, and line the top with cheese before putting the pastry lid on. Yummmmmm. Enjoy!