Walking on sunshine

May 8, 2012

Hello all … well, Love & Hunger has been out for a week today, and I’ve been a little taken aback at how frenetic that week has been. A few radio interviews, a newspaper extract here and there, a couple of reviews, few pieces on others’ people’s blogs – I’m pooped! And on Thursday I’m off to New Zealand for the Auckland Readers’ & Writers’ Festival – very excited as I’ve never been to NZ before – then straight back into the Sydney Writers’ Festival starting in Katoomba on Monday and Tuesday, then more events in Sydney at the end of the week. Plus a couple more interviews. And then more festivals and travelling to come …

When my darling writer friend Tegan (whose novels and stories are some of the finest you shall ever have the pleasure of reading) read Love & Hunger she said I should prepare myself for much communication, because of its conversational nature. She was right.

I have had emails from radio listeners, including one woman who took me to task for my offhand remarks about bad Australian food in the 1970s (“the food of the 1950s to the 1970s is in fact far superior to the food served up today”), and another very moving one from a woman coping with chemotherapy without the support of her friends. I’ve had a gorgeous podcast listener from south-west France email to invite me and my husband to come and enjoy the food of his region, and another lump-in-the-throat email from a young uni student who bought my book after reading The Age extract: “I feel your every word directed to me personally … perhaps you have given me what Elizabeth David gave you all those years ago.”

I have had the most beautiful messages from friends and family who have already read it, often sharing with me what they’ve cooked that day for someone else, or offering me a new recipe apropos of something that’s come from the book. I absolutely love this passing on of ideas and knowledge and experience – as in Tegan’s lovely comments here the other day. It means that for these people at least, the book has worked in the way I hoped it would – as a conversation, a lighter of flame, a nourishing presence. I can’t tell you how happy it’s all making me.

That long and busy week was topped off by seeing Senor playing trumpet at a gig for the first time in a long time for me. It made me so elated to see him play again, because he so talented, and he enjoys it so much. And that event gave  rise to yet another conversation and a new idea, about bringing people together through music, in a new little experiment we’ve got started.

More on that later – but in the meantime, the weather is sharp, and blue-skied, and cold. Which means it’s perfect for this sunshiny roasted pumpkin risotto. It is the business – comfort food with zing and vibrance, first made for me many moons ago by the Empress, and which has become one of my faves. It’s also excellent frugal food, but with absolutely no sense of poverty about it whatsoever.

Roast pumpkin risotto for 8

  • 1 big lump of pumpkin – I used about a quarter of a medium punk for this one, I suppose around 1kg or a bit more…
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • white wine or verjuice
  • 1.5 litres chicken / vegetable stock
  • butter
  • Parmesan
  1. Cut pumpkin into big chunks and roast in olive oil in the oven for up to an hour, until nicely browned and very soft and mashable
  2. You already know how to make risotto, but just in case: gently fry the onion & garlic in oil, pour in the rice and stir until the grains begin to stick to the pan, deglaze with a glass of white wine, then lower the heat and add the hot stock a cup or so at a time, stirring very frequently until the rice is just al dente, and adding boiling water if you run out of stock.
  3. Meanwhile, mash up the pumpkin and then when the rice is just tender, add it to the pan and stir in to get a beautiful orange risotto.
  4. Add a big lump of butter and stir, loosen the mix with more boiling water or stock until it’s nicely sloppy – I detest a stiff risotto – season and then add to a bowl with grated Parmesan and lots and lots and lots of pepper.



  1. You deserve every accolade coming your way, Charlotte! You are a wonderful writer and person, and it absolutely sings out of the pages of Love & Hunger! Congratulations again! xx

    • Well Miz R, I think we both know this stuff is allllll your work … thankyou for it. x

  2. L&H has been sitting on my desk for weeks as it awaits its place in our news pages, Charlotte, and consequently has been a happy and regular distraction from the daily round of brain-deadening monthly deadlines, marketing wankery, budget balancing and corporate-speak. I love it. Sally

    • Sally, I know that press-release-marketing banality so well … when I worked on a pharmacy mag we had an annual competition for the worst perfume or cosmetics press release. There was *much* competition. (and thankyou, thankyou for your & MC mag’s lovely support x)

  3. Charlotte have L&H and loving the recipes, very up my street. Tell me before you go where and when is the food panel PLEASE.

    • Oh Nance – ! sorry I forgot. My Sydney panel on food is on Friday May 18 at 11.30 to 12.30 with Caro Baum, Tony Bilson and Alex Herbert of Bird Cow Fish … it’s at Sydney Dance 1, a room down at the Sydney Dance Theatre at Walsh Bay, where all the SWF events are. Lots and lots of things on tehre – http:www.swf.org.au – ours is free but lots of ticketed events. The free ones get queues going very early so it you are desperate to go, best get in line early! (I only go to ticketed ones myself generally as I hate queues so much!). Hope to see you round there somewhere xxx

      • Charlotte that was quick, thanks for info, hope too be there. Nancy x

  4. Hi Charlotte – I may just buy your book and read it. Not because I really like reading your blog and find it so refreshing that a good food blog need not be just food porn (which I must confess I do also love) mixed with inane commentary (which simultaneously hurts my eyes and my ears). But because I am reading the latest book by another great Australian writer, Robert Dessaix, who writes a couple of chapters on the fast-fading art of conversation and the art of the personal essay. Importantly, he writes that so few women engage in the art of the personal essay (he discovers this whilst compiling an anthology of Australian essays). So, I will be interested to read your book to hear your conversation with your unknown friends as I have a hunch that it is just the sort of conversation which Mr Dessaix would approve of. I also made your Zucchini “Gratin” tonight – a smashing success with my mother-in-law so thank you!

    • Hi Ishanthi – very interesting comment; Robert is a wonderful writer and I have his new book but not yet begun it so look forward especially to that bit … And I am thrilled the zucchini gratin worked! Thanks for letting me know, love to hear these things work as intended.

  5. Thank you so much Charlotte for such a glorious read and journey through what at times seemed like reading bits from my own family life, I had plenty of “aha” moments along with laughs & a couple of tears.
    I went straight out to buy my copy of your book the minute I read about it in Good Living only to find that (after about 15min of searching) the only copy they had was out in the back room because one of the ladies had taken it home and couldn’t put it down…it’s mine now, I finished it the next day!.
    Neglecting my 5yr old & hubby a little I read most of your book at the kitchen bench while cooking family meals…no disasters but they did have to wait a little longer & they are better for it…mummy’s happy!
    Now I have discovered you I’ll be spreading the word & your delightful book…thank you again for helping me relive my upbringing & the great memories that our family & friends shared around food in a little weatherboard house in a little street in inner city Rozelle some 30 years ago.

    Jane (home cook) xx

    P.S You’ve got me questioning my motives for constantly wanting to have dinner parties…is it so I can impress friends and family with my culinary skills & have them shower me with praise?…I can live with that, it’s a warm, happy, rewarding, lovely feeling…but its also because I love them.

    Love your blog!!

    • Ah Jane, what a wonderful response, thank you so much. Am so pleased you liked it and I completely agree with you that if a little hunger for praise leads to good dinners with folks you love, then that impulse is a good one. Thank you so much for getting in touch, hope we see you round here a lot. xc

  6. I made the roast pumpkin risotto tonight. It was very nice indeed, although I cheated and threw in a handful of chopped mushrooms and some spinach.
    The pumpkin was one of two I grew myself this summer and the best I’ve ever grown – full of deep orange colour and flavour.
    Thankyou for your blog. It makes me think.

    • sounds great Nici, yum. And thanks for your lovely words.

  7. Hi Charlotte,

    I found this blog through reading a review of your new book. Have just started the book and am currently dipping in and out of it – I’m absolutely loving it. The thing I like most about it is in stark contrast to what others are saying. Rather than reminding me of my childhood, it has made me realise how much was lacking from my own (as far as food went). For the older women in my family, food has always been the enemy. It has been nice reading about how it can be used to connect with others. In recent years I have been moving towards this philosophy, after starting out being terrified of cooking (it might go wrong, etc. Double stress if guests were invited). I definately have not been a great host creating a warm atmosphere as you describe – after a few awkward attempts after first leaving home, I had stopped entertaining as it was too stressful. I have progressively become a more confident cook and reading your book has solidified the kind of relationship I want to have with my friends and family and how this can be aided by giving the gift of food.

    For a while I was enamoured with Nigella Lawson, as she was the first person who made me think that I could be relaxed in the kitchen. But reading this book has made me realise how much of Nigella Lawson is smoke-and-mirrors. In her books and her shows, she talks about making mistakes and mess, but this seems to be in direct contradiction to her whole manner. After reading this book and blog, it has made me realise how unauthentic she really is – a fact that my husband has affirmed for a while now but which I stridently denied. Reading you makes me think of being a real person in the kitchen and in life.

    • Nadia, that is one of the most touching responses I have ever had to anything I’ve ever written. I am so glad you feel the book speaks to you like this. Here’s to being REAL. Thank you a million times. xxx

      • Hi Charlotte, thanks for your lovely reply – I look forward to mining more wisdom from your books and blog 🙂

  8. Congratulations Charlotte! Love and Hunger is a delight – for emanating personal warmth, and clearly demonstrating food’s central place in social exchange.
    And do remind me, when next our paths cross, to demonstrate how my aunts would wrap eggs and pack them in an Arnotts biscuits tin during the Depression (still, a great hostess gift).

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