All posts by Christina Soong

  • SpikedBloodOrangeTeaChristinaSoongDilmah-3

    Spiked Blood Orange Tea (Dilmah Evening Tea remix)

    While I love catching up with chums at restaurants, markets and bars, it’s always nice having people over to my home.

    Having people over doesn’t mean a lot of faffing around on my part though. Sure, if I’m celebrating a significant occasion like my recent birthday, I’ll make a special effort. But most of the time I like keeping things simple and relaxed: there’s no point preparing the most incredibly styled gathering and killer menu if you’re too exhausted or stressed to actually enjoy it.

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    This recipe is a case in point. While I enjoy having cocktails made for me, I’m pretty lazy when it comes to actually making individual cocktails for people. So this Spiked Blood Orange Tea (Dilmah Evening Tea remix) recipe is a great way to make your guests feel special without having to create individual cocktails for each of them. It tastes divine, too – I love how the deliciousness tartness of the blood oranges is warmed up by the spices in the rum and the delicate flavours of the tea.

    This recipe couldn’t be simpler and can easily be made ahead and chilled in the refrigerator. Then when your guests arrive, it’s simply a matter of pouring the spiked tea out into individual glasses and garnishing them with blood orange slices and a sprig of thyme.

    Simple. Delicious. Stunning. Just the way I like it. Why not give it a go today?

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    Spiked Blood Orange Tea (Dilmah Luxury Leaf Evening Tea remix)
     
    Author: 
    Recipe type: Cocktail
    Cuisine: Australian
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    A gorgeous, summery tea cocktail
    Ingredients
    • 5 Dilmah Luxury Leaf Evening Tea Sachets (loose leaf)
    • 1100 mls just boiled water
    • 5 blood oranges
    • ⅓-1/2 cup sugar, depending on taste
    • 7 shots good quality spiced rum (210 mls)
    • 1 whole blood orange, washed well (peel still on)
    • Few sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
    Instructions
    1. Steep Dilmah Luxury Leaf Evening Tea in just boiled water for four minutes and then strain and cool.
    2. Juice four of the blood oranges to give around 330mls liquid and then heat up orange juice with sugar and bring to the boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes over a low heat and then leave to cool for 10 minutes.
    3. In a jug or bowl, mix tea, orange juice and spiced rum together.
    4. Slice remaining orange into medium-thick slices.
    5. To serve, add two orange slices and a sprig of thyme.

    This post was sponsored by Dilmah Tea. Check out their latest tea flavourshealth benefits of teaFAQs about tea and tea events.

  • JMCTheHungryAustralian_0363-2

    A dessert table for my birthday

    I have such happy memories of boisterous house parties when I was a child. There was always plenty of food and drink and laughter, everyone pitched in to help and we kids had the run of the house and backyard. My parents love entertaining so they regularly had friends over when I was growing up – sometimes it was a simple dinner of spag bol (spaghetti Bolognese) or stir-fry with rice, often an easy outdoor BBQ and, on special occasions, a suckling pig roasted on the spit over an open fire.

    I want my children to have those same happy memories so I decided to throw a party at home to celebrate my recent birthday. For the menu, I decided on cocktails, dips and crudités, chicken satays with peanut sauce, mini banh mi (Vietnamese pork rolls), four different salads and a special dessert table.

    A few months ago, my friends asked me to do the dessert table for their wedding next year so I figured that my party was a great opportunity to trial an idea I’d had. While heavily styled and immaculate dessert tables always look impressive there’s often a sense that they’re so perfect that people don’t want to mess them up by actually eating any of the components. Inspired by a dessert table I’d seen at a Perth restaurant I wanted to make a fun and interactive dessert table that people felt completely comfortable diving face first into.

    So I enlisted the help of my local foodie/blogger friend, Natasha, and we came up with a dessert table concept using chocolate cake soil, mixed meringues, two types of sweet and salty popcorn, two types of salted caramel sauce, fresh strawberries and whipped mascarpone cream placed directly onto a brand new tablecloth. This would be built in front of guests in real time during the evening.

    On the night of the party, we realised that it would be fun creating the dessert table to music so I asked Maja from Hey Hooray DJs to find some appropriately fun tunes. Thus, Natasha and I built the dessert table to the accompaniment of Eye of the Tiger from Rocky III and Starships’ We Built This City. It was totally cheesy and I loved every second of it!

    Here’s how it all went down. First, we built up a wide ribbon of chocolate cake soil baked by Tash.

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    Next, we added plain and striped meringues baked by Tash.

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    Then it was time to add the two different types of popcorn.

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    Next, we added fresh strawberries.

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    Then Tash drizzled her salted caramel sauce over the table as I arranged the bought salted caramel pots.

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    More salted caramel drizzling by Tash.

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    Out comes my cleaver to chop up the peanut brittle!

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    Note to self: remember to pin one’s hair up next time one does this…

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    Almost ready… just one last thing to put into place…

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    Ta da!!!!!

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    As we dramatically placed the whipped mascarpone cream into the centre of the table the garden erupted with cheers. The cream was made by my beautiful sister in law who added her own surprising twist to it – my face! Isn’t she a darling?

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    A quick snap with Tash to celebrate our successful trial.

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    My daughter and brother then halted proceedings for their speeches.

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    I love how everyone is listening to my brother but can’t take their eyes off the dessert table.

    After the speeches, we invited everyone to help themselves to dessert. The kids had been vibrating with excitement and impatience the whole time we were working on the table so naturally they were the first to dive in.

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    The adults helped themselves at a more sedate pace and the table was quickly decimated. Later on, I loved watching both adults and children passing the table and grabbing random spoonfuls of the dessert.

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    As a completely unrehearsed trial the dessert table went off extremely well. Sure, there were a few things I’d do differently next time but we had so much fun doing it and everybody enjoyed watching it all come together.

    It was a wonderful night. Thank you to everyone who helped make it a special evening. In particular, huge thanks to the following:

    • J for his help with the bar, the incredible cocktail menu, these lovely photographs and the enormous set up and clean up. He had never tended bar before, but he did it so well he was asked to do two other parties on the night! You are #allthethings.
    • Maja and Tanya from Hey Hooray DJs. These girls play the best tunes for weddings and events.
    • Tim for his mini Banh Mi (Vietnamese pork rolls) made to order on the spot. They were so popular he ‘sold out’ within a couple of hours. Here’s the recipe.
    • Claire and Nick at Bulb Lighting for the loan of the beautiful festoon and bud lighting that decorated the gardens. They have a fantastic range of lights available for hire and they’re amazing to work with. Check out some of the jobs they’ve done on Instagram at @bulblighting.
    • Natasha for your help with the dessert table and salad prep. Mwah!
    • Tanya, MJ, Matt, my mum and Dayle for their huge help with the salad prep. I couldn’t have done it without you!
    • Megan for the loan of the bowls, platters and glasses.
    • My brother for his help serving the satays and for his sweet and funny impromptu speech.
    • Anita and Dayle for their help washing glasses on the night.
    • My mum and dad for their enormous help setting up and cleaning up the event.
    • My children for the lovely poem and their help drying the glasses the next day.

    Have you ever made a dessert table? What would be in your fantasy dessert table?

    All photographs by J.

  • SmoothieBowlChristinaSoongDilmah-4

    Chia Smoothie Bowl (Dilmah Green Tea remix)

    After a particularly long, cold and tedious Winter, Spring has finally arrived in Australia. Hurrah!

    For me, Springtime is about enjoying the sunshine, catching up with the friends I’ve neglected while hibernating, and making renewed efforts to eat well and exercise regularly.

    You see, during Winter I can become a carb monster, eagerly devouring all the starchy stuff I can get my hands on. Come Springtime, however,  and my body craves fresh ingredients and lighter meals.

    Now I find that if I eat a healthy breakfast it’s relatively easy to find the motivation to continue eating well during the day. But if I eat, say, leftover cold pizza for breakfast — *cough, cough* — I’m going to struggle.

    SmoothieBowlChristinaSoongDilmah-3

    Enter this super easy Chia Smoothie Bowl (Dilmah Green Tea Remix) to start the day off well.

    The great things about smoothie bowls is that they are infinitely customisable according to your tastes and dietary requirements. So you can use any combination of fruit, milk and tea you like as long as you keep to the rough quantities in terms of solids and liquids.

    For this rather pretty pink smoothie I’ve opted for a mixture of berries, pomegranate, soy milk and Dilmah Fragrant Jasmine Green TeaSmoothieBowlChristinaSoongDilmah-1

    I love antioxidant-rich green tea and drink a large pot of it every day when I’m working at my desk – I find it helps me to focus, as well as helping with digestion.

    If you’ve never made anything with chia seeds before don’t be scared – all you do is mix them into some liquid, in this case, the smoothie mixture, and let them sit and swell for 10 or so minutes.

    I like using chia seeds to thicken this smoothie bowl because they are rich in fibre, protein, antioxidants, and essential omega 3s. Plus, they allow me to feel less guilty about the leftover pizza eaten the day before so I’m basically winning whichever way you look at it.

    Now I’m off to enjoy the sunshine. Spring picnic, anyone?

    This post was sponsored by Dilmah Tea. Check out their latest tea flavours, health benefits of teaFAQs about tea and tea events.

    SmoothieBowlChristinaSoongDilmah-2

     

    Chia Smoothie Bowl (Dilmah Green Tea remix)

    Smoothie Bowl (Dilmah Green Tea remix)
     
    Author: 
    Recipe type: Breakfast
    Cuisine: Australian
    Prep time: 
    Total time: 
    An easy and healthy breakfast smoothie bowl
    Ingredients
    • 3 bananas
    • ½ cup (125 mls) Dilmah Fragrant Jasmine Green Tea, brewed according to packet instructions and then cooled.
    • ½ cup (125 mls) milk. You can use soy, cow's, oats, almond or rice milk.
    • 250 grams mixed fruit (I used washed and hulled strawberries and blueberries).
    • 3 Medjool dates to sweeten (you can substitue 1-2 teaspoons of honey, stevia, agave syrup, maple syrup or rice malt syrup).
    • 2.5 tablespoons chia seeds.
    • Fresh fruit to garnish.
    Instructions
    1. Use a bench blender or stick blender to blend bananas, tea, milk, fruit and dates.
    2. Pour into a bowl and then stir in chia seeds.
    3. Leave smoothie bowl to sit for 10-15 minutes until chia seeds have swollen and smoothie mixture has thickened.
    4. Decorate with fresh fruit - I used raspberries, blueberries and pomegranate seeds You can do stripes of fruit if you feel so inclined for everyday eats I simply sprinkle some fruit on top.
    Notes
    Makes one large serving for an adult or 2 small servings for young children

     

  • Devour Cafe & Patesserie, Adelaide

    5 date ideas in Adelaide for food lovers

    I’m dating someone at the moment and it’s both sweet — he’s #kindaamazing — and mildly terrifying.

    In my working life I can tolerate a high degree of risk. I’ve moved countries and cities lots of times and have always managed to find interesting jobs. Part of this is due no doubt to the can-do, try-anything-once attitude you develop as a traveller: you stop thinking in boxes and start thinking in possibilities. And our thoughts create our world, don’t they?

    However, in my personal life, I have little room for risk, not with two kids in tow.

    Unfortunately, with or without kids dating is inherently risky. You can experience nearly every single human emotion on a first date, including anticipation, shyness, pleasure, joy, disgust, horror, pain, embarrassment, and, of course, humiliation.

    Wow. I’m really selling dating, aren’t I?

    But regular readers will know that I’ve blogged before about dating — see lessons learned from dating plus 10 ways to tell if someone likes you and Red Berry Soup — and haven’t held back. So when leading dating site, e-Harmony, recently approached me to write a piece about 5 awesome and creative dates ideas in Adelaide for their dating guide, I wasn’t sure what to think. Would I be able to write about dating for them with my usual (possibly, brutal) honesty?

    Luckily, the folks at e-Harmony understood exactly where I was coming from. So, if you’re interested, check out more of my thoughts on dating plus my picks for 5 creative and awesome dates in Adelaide on the e-Harmony blog.

    And for those of you who are single and dating, I applaud your courage. Good luck out there!

    PS If you’re interested in giving e-Harmony a go, they’re currently offering a special deal for The Hungry Australian readers (73% discount off usual prices).

    Photo credit: doughnuts and coffee at Devour Cafe & Patisserie (shot by moi).

  • Nasi Padang Minmang Malaysia

    Celebrating 4 Years of Blogging

    Just over four years ago I published my first post on The Hungry Australian – a recipe for my dad’s Chinese Sausage Omelette.

    At the time, I had no inkling that this blog would end up changing my life so dramatically. It all happened quite organically – after six months I was offered my first long-term client contract and my accidental freelance career grew from there.

    Last year, something unexpected happened: this blog was judged Best Australian Blog 2014 by the Australian Writer’s Centre, over 1,100+ other blogs.

    Winning the top gong was a tremendous surprise and while the recognition was lovely, the subsequent attention and unexpected self-consciousness that followed led to a case of Writer’s Block. Yes, it was extremely ironic.

    Happily, a chance conversation on an overseas trip helped put things in perspective and got me back on track: I realised I had to stop worrying about everyone else’s expectations and just focus on creating the best work I was capable of.

    THA Fish at Nasi Padang Minmang, Penang

     

    Currently, I’m shooting a food and travel book — Flavours of South Australia for Smudge Publishing — working with a few select clients and focusing on my own writing projects. I also have a new agent — Kathryn Fleming at The Fleming Agency — and I couldn’t be happier as she’s extremely good at what she does and her representation allows me to focus on what I enjoy most: creating stories.

    Between work, writing and family commitments, I’ve had much less time to blog this year than ever before. But I have a stack of blog posts that I’m doing final edits on and will publish shortly so thank you for your patience.

    Most importantly, thank you for being part of The Hungry Australian. As a blogger, I hope to create stories that connect and resonate with people: the fact that so many of you have let me into your lives either via this blog or one of my social media accounts is something I find both astonishing and humbling.

    Christina xx

    THA Nasi Padang Minmang

    About these photos

    I shot these photos on the fly a couple of weeks ago at Nasi Padang Minang, a humble coffee shop at 92 Jalan Transfer in the historical Georgetown area of Penang, Malaysia. At the Nasi Padang Minang the 50 Indonesian and Malaysian dishes on the menu are cooked early in the morning and then left out, uncovered, for diners to help themselves. Australian health and safety inspectors would be having a fit but I knew that eating here would be fine because I was being hosted by Mark from Simply Enak Tours, which specialises in small-group tours of interesting places not usually visited by tourists.

    Mark has been coming to this coffee shop for years so he knew exactly what to order. So we ate the delicious house speciality — whole fried fish with fried shallots (ikan bakar) — along with our individual choices of curries, vegetables, rice and salad (ulam) dipped into sambal (chilli paste). I’d never eaten the crunchy, deep-fried flat fish seen on the right side of the main plate before – they tasted like anchovies and were mind-blowingly good. As we ate and drank our iced coffees we chatted about Georgetown’s cultural and food history and I marvelled again at the power of food as both a form of legacy and a way to build new bridges.

  • Cheese from Barossa Valley Cheese Company

    Having it all

    One of my mentors once said to me, “you can Have It All. Just not all at once.”

    I was running a successful NGO in Shanghai and pregnant with my first child when we had this conversation. I knew my world was about to change but I had no idea how much it would. However, I trusted her then and I know her advice to be true now.

    It’s such a big thing to live up to, this notion of Having it All. Basically, it boils down to having a great relationship, a great career, a great family life, a great social life and a great lifestyle. All while being impeccably buffed, toned, coiffed, pert and polished at all times, naturally.

    Having it All is designed to turn smart people into gibbering wrecks, full of self-loathing and insecurity. Where is this fabulous, Pinterest-pinnable life I’m supposed to be having? Why isn’t my whole weekend Facebook worthy? Why has my latest Instagram photo only attracted a ho-hum response?

    Having it All is primarily a female concept. We rarely give men backwards compliments like, “I don’t know how you do it” or “your life must be so hard,” both of which I’m told semi-regularly. We rarely wonder how a dad will manage his young children and a demanding job because we assume that someone else will take care of the kids, and for the most part, that’s true. It may not be what the feminists amongst us, myself included, want to hear, but it is the reality: women still manage the majority of the housework and the child-rearing.

    In my case, I have an incredible support network, my family and ex husband are close by and happy to step in when necessary, and I happily outsource as much as possible. And there is absolutely no way I could do what I do without all of this help.

    Women are told to lean in to make it up the corporate ladder. But this just isn’t feasible for most women unless you have an amazingly understanding and available spouse and the financial resources to support this. Also, those of us who climbed that ladder as responsibility-free singletons often don’t have the same goals after we become parents: once you’ve spent your days at home with small children you may not want to spend your days working with adults who behave like small children.

    Present, too, after kids, may be the shifting of priorities, the putting of other’s needs before our own: I wanted to be present in my kids’ lives as they grew up, just as my parents were in mine.

    Yet my ambition and my desire to do interesting work and make a difference hasn’t dimmed one iota. There are so many things I still want to do. So many places yet to visit. So many meals still to be eaten.

    Squid, radish and onion at Fino Seppeltsfield
    Grilled squid, radish and onion at Fino Seppeltsfield, Barossa Valley

    So how do I reconcile these competing desires?

    Well, like Jack Donaghy, the fictional CEO in NBC’s 30 Rock, I like to imagine my life as a pie chart divided into a number of sections. In no particular order, my ‘Wheel of Domination‘ comprises: Work; Family; Writing; Blogging; Relationship; Friends; Exercise and Health; Sleep; Travel; and Household.

    At times when I am failing spectacularly in any one section, I remind myself that I am not going to be able to do all of them perfectly at once: there just aren’t enough hours in the day. And I allow myself to be OK with this.

    So I compromise. As some areas need more attention, I move some sections temporarily to the back burner, knowing that I will need to address this imbalance in due course. I prioritise where I put my energy and I avoid feeling unhelpful guilt about any of it – that’s what my mother is for!

    However, two areas I cannot overlook are sleep and exercise. I’ve neglected both in recent months and have learned my lesson: if I don’t get enough the wheels come off and I can’t function properly. So they’re non-negotiable now and if it means giving up other nice but non-essential activities then so be it.

    My experience is not unique – most working parents will be able to relate to the constant juggling of priorities and tasks and rarely feeling well-rested. Some days days I look at my To Do lists for the day, week and month and I feel like one of those Chinese acrobats spinning dinner plates on tall steel rods: one false move and it will all come crashing down.

    Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, there are times when I fantasise about having a shack by the beach in which to write, uninterrupted, for a month. But the reality is that ideal circumstances and timing rarely coincide – there’s never a good time to start a new job, get married, have kids, write a book, move house, get divorced, fall in love, go back to study or start a new business. We do these things in spite of the chaos and uncertainty around us and this is how it should be.

    So to all you amazing people out there worried about not Having It All: next time you fail spectacularly, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are Having It All. Just not all at once.

  • Peel Street Restaurant, Adelaide

    Lessons learned from dating + 10 ways to know if someone likes you

    I delved into the murky world of online dating a few months ago and it was an eye-opener. For starters, I learned that I’m a judgemental bitch.

    Now we all have our particular quirks, and mental and physical characteristics we find attractive or otherwise. In the real world, you might make your mind up about someone during the first few minutes of one-on-one chatting. But in the online world, sometimes all it takes is a photo or a casual comment and their fate is sealed.

    For instance, if a guy’s profile pic is him posing with a chained up, drugged-to-its-eyeballs tiger I swipe left. I don’t think he is cool for posing with that poor animal; I find it weird and disturbing.

    Similarly, if a guy’s profile photos are mostly half-naked boudoir poses I’m steering well clear. Fellas, I get that you’ve worked hard for your abs and that you’ve proud of them but a little mystery is attractive. Also, if you’re built like that I’m going to have suck my tummy in whenever I’m around you so that’s not going to work.

    I am also wary of non-actor/presenter types who post continuous selfies to their social media accounts. I wonder what’s actually going on with them behind the carefully edited and filtered shots and whether they measure their self-worth in Likes and Follows. So if that’s you, I’m out.

    Words are equally important to me. This is a good example of what not to say to someone:

    Me: Thanks for your message. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would work out between us because I’m looking for a relationship and you’re clearly not.

    Him: You never know – you could be the one. You look nice and you’re Asian.

    Ugh. I. Just. Can’t. Even.

    Similarly, if someone calls me ‘pretty girl’ or ‘beautiful’ in a private message, as in, ‘Hi, beautiful,’ or ‘Hey, pretty girl,’ I’m immediately turned off. He took his best shot and that’s what he came up with? Something completely generic? Sorry, not interested.

    In a different way, if a guy’s profile and direct messages are full of spelling and grammatical errors I can’t read on. ‘Intelligent’ does not have an ‘a’ in it. ‘Restaurant’ is not spelt ‘restraint’. ‘Business’ is not spelt ‘busniess.’ Look, I understand that not everyone is a good speller and that some people are dyslexic. But you’re typing this on a phone, tablet or laptop – how hard is it to use the autocorrect? Attention to detail counts, fellas.

    Now if a guy’s profile clearly states that he’s not up for anything serious or any kind of commitment, that’s a red flag for me – I don’t care how charming his subsequent message are. Ladies: don’t go into something like this thinking you can change a man’s mind because he’s being honest about the fact that he’s not ready to commit. I’ve learned to decline approaches like this immediately because I want to be with someone who actually wants to be in a relationship.

    Banana leaf salad, Peel Street restaurant

    Now if I politely decline someone’s approach I feel like that should be it – no harm, no foul. Not so, according to some guys, who feel like I owe them a detailed explanation about why I won’t go out with them. Ladies: don’t even try explaining as some guys will try to convince you that you have to go out with them. Take this exchange.

    Me: Thanks for your message but I don’t think it would work out between us. Good luck out there. 

    Him: Oh ok. Why’s that? If it’s not too much to ask.

    Me: Nothing personal – you’re just not my type.

    Him: Looks, I assume?

    Him: Just realised that is is so Hollywood movie. Boy meets girl. Girl rejects boy assuming they have nothing in common or he does not meet her previously used partner criteria, which led her to be single in the first place. Everyone can see that he is perfect for her and would treat her the way she deserves to be treated but will she see it before it’s too late?

    WTF? Have we met? Dude, you don’t know me. And I sure as fuck don’t have to go out with you just because you ask.

    Now if you actually manage to find someone who doesn’t come across as a complete psycho my advice is to meet with him or her for a drink or meal as quickly as possible. Chemistry is an elusive thing and you don’t want to waste weeks or months chatting to someone who you are not attracted to in person.

    Now I’m aware that I’m sounding a little negative — dating can do that to a person — so to end this post on a positive note, I have a helpful guide which explains how to tell if someone likes you.

    This actually came about because I was chatting with a new friend the other night — Hi, Erick! — and we were discussing dating and the differences between men and women. He told me he loves dating but that that he’s never really sure when a woman likes him. So as a community service to all the single men and women out there, here is our guide:

    10 Ways to Know if Someone Likes You

    1. They talk to you a lot and are always hanging around you;
    2. They compliment/insult you a lot;
    3. They have a goofy grin on their face when they look at you;
    4. They do nice things for you;
    5. They find excuses to stay in touch with you;
    6. They touch you when they’re talking to you, ostensibly to emphasise a point;
    7. They smile or frown at you a lot, meaning you have an emotional impact on them;
    8. They laugh at all your jokes, even the bad ones;
    9. They kiss you; and/or
    10. They tell you.

    Ultimately, we are all foolish, irrational creatures when we’re in love. Good luck being foolish out there!

  • Orana: Christina Soong

    Eater for hire

    2015 is rushing by at an alarming rate and my beloved blog has been sorely neglected. So instead of waiting for that perfect, non-existent free day to craft one of my lengthy personal story/recipe posts or put the finishing touches on one of my huge travel posts (Turkey, Abu Dhabi and Southern Ocean Lodge stories still to come, folks!) I’ve decided to mix things up with a short ‘n’ sweet update today.

    Hentley Farm: Christina Soong

    I’ve recently been researching some of South Australia’s best food experiences for four photo-journalism pieces I’m working on for a client. It was pretty much my dream commission: I was given an open brief, asked to pitch some story ideas and then told I had all four assignments.

    Pinch me hard, I thought.

    Devour Patisserie and Cafe: Christina Soong

    As part of my research I’ve been travelling around the state and eating out a lot lately. When I say a lot, I mean a lot: I managed four tasting menus within 36 hours once!

    But all this eating is for a good cause and I’m having a wonderful time revisiting old favourites and getting to know my new happy places. There is such incredible food talent here in South Australia – I have high expectations when it comes to, well, nearly everything, and I’ve been genuinely thrilled by some of the food I’ve eaten lately.

    Ferment Asian: Christina Soong

    Do you recognise any of these places or dishes? I’m looking forward to sharing these stories with you soon. In the meantime, I have more blog posts in the works – thank you for your patience.

    PS if you want to keep up with my travels in (close to) real-time, you can follow me on Instagram at @thehungryaustralian.

  • aspire shoot christina soong

    A picnic with friends for Aspire

    Last year, my lovely friend Sky asked me if I’d be interested in doing a shoot with Aspire, the excellent lifestyle magazine that she edits.

    “What did you have in mind?” I asked.

    “How about you shooting and styling a meal with a couple of other food blogger friends?” she suggested. “You could all cook your own recipes.”

    How could I say no?

    I’m lucky to have some great food blogging friends in Adelaide, many of whom I met in 2012 when I helped organise the national food blogging conference, Eat Drink Blog. A group of us get together as often as we can – it’s always fun catching up on everyone’s news over a mountain of food and wine, as we did just this week.

    As time went on the project started to take shape. Sky and I agreed on an outdoor picnic setting and picnic food. Erin from She Cooks She Gardens and Natasha from Playing House came on board as the bloggers and Yin Shan from Amy Goddess Artistry was booked to do our make up.

    In terms of a possible location, Erin suggested her in law’s beautifully lush garden in Kensington Gardens, which I gladly accepted.

    I borrowed some white paper lanterns and Mason jars from my awesome in laws at Bulb Lighting and a whole car load of props from the delightful ladies at Vintage Carousel to supplement our own.

    Then shortly before the shoot, Sky suggested that our children be included in the shoot, too. I agreed, and then I remembered the old show biz adage: never work with children or animals.

    Just kidding! (My kids will definitely read this.)

    In the end, it all came together fine, thanks to everyone’s combined efforts. Here’s the final spread in the magazine and a selection of photos from the day:

    Aspire Magazine shoot Christina Soong

    THA picnic shoot Aspire

    THA Aspire magazine Christina Soong

    DSC_9391 copy

    DSC_9422 copy

    Want to see the complete piece and recipes from the day?  You can pick up a copy of Aspire at these outlets. Alternatively, you can read the magazine online.

    Many thanks to Aspire, Sky, Erin, Tash, Emily, Julian, Jasper, Tim, Amy Goddess Artistry, Alison and Tom, Vintage Carousel and Bulb Lighting  xx

  • DSC_9770

    Summer Love

    Hello! How extremely overdue my first post of 2015 is.

    I had good intentions to post on January 1, truly I did. But I’ve been juggling the kids on holidays on top of my client work and writing projects, plus hosting visiting friends, regular day trips down the Coast to soak up the Aussie summer, a week in Melbourne, a birthday, and my son starting school.

    I have lots of new recipes, work projects and travel experiences to share in upcoming blog posts but I wanted to kick off 2015 with some photos from a lovely outdoor wedding I recently attended.

    The ceremony took place on a bright, sunny afternoon in the stunning grounds of Carclew in North Adelaide. How adorable are the flower girls and page boys in this photo? And I’m not just saying that because my niece and nephew are leading the way!

    DSC_9769

    The beautiful bride. THA - Missy and Barter Wedding, Carclew

    Following the ceremony, drinks and canapés were served on the lawns before guests were invited to take their seats.

    THA Salt and Pepper Squid

    THA - Missy and Barter Wedding, Carclew

    The wedding speeches were full of loving anecdotes that provoked roars of laughter.

    THA - Missy and Barter Wedding, Carclew

    The groom’s hilarious speech — revealing his bride’s quirks, happy nature and non-stop energy — made me laugh and cry.

    THA - Missy and Barter Wedding, Carclew

    Guests were then served a plated entrée and family-style mains by seriously good-looking servers. I prefer family-style servings at weddings because I don’t want to have to choose between two options: I want to try everything!

    THA - Fish at Carclew wedding

    The day was a bit of a family affair, with my brother’s family and in-laws all playing supporting roles.

    THA - Family at Missy and Barter Wedding, Carclew

    As the night lengthened, desserts — assorted pastries — were served and people danced to an awesome wedding set list by local friends, Hey Hooray DJs. THA - Missy and Barter Wedding, Carclew

    It was a wonderful day. Weddings are usually joyful occasions but Missy and Andrew’s wedding was one of the nicest I’ve ever been to. Congratulations to the happy couple! xx

  • smoked fish and almond dip

    Things I Like: December

    Smoked Fish and Almond Dip. I developed this easy-peasy recipe — see above — for the Almond Board of Australia’s Amazing Almonds. It’s full of flavour and extremely more-ish.

    Brilliant Ron Swanson breakfast tee. For lovers of manly men, bacon, moustaches, waffles and Parks and Recreation.

    Chef’s Knife and Utility Knife by I. O. Shen. You’re much more likely to cut yourself using a blunt knife than a properly sharpened knife. These I. O. Shen knives makes food prep a pleasure.

    Africola. Former Bistro Dom Executive Chef Duncan Welgemoed recently opened a new restaurant celebrating his South African roots and it’s a cracker. PS Andrew Cameron’s cocktails are dangerously good.

    Gardening. I’d forgotten how therapeutic and rewarding gardening is. Next time you’re feeling a little low, grab a broom and some gloves and go tidy up your yard. Don’t have a garden? Go for a brisk walk in a local park or along the beach.

    Adam’s Big Pot by Adam Liaw. The MasterChef Australia winner returns with a gorgeous cook book full of beloved family family recipes.

    Nudie Juices. My ancient juicer at home has what feels like 57 different parts and is a pain to clean. So lately I’ve been buying Nudie beetroot and carrot juices.

    Playing Big by Tara Mohr. I’m telling all my women friends to read this book. I love the idea of listening to your Inner Mentor while you tell your Inner Critic to buzz off.

    Baby cucumbers and rainbow coloured tomatoes. We can’t stop eating both of these at the moment – see photo.

    New bed linen. I’m trying to make myself go to bed earlier so I’m loving my new 100% linen bedding and this gorgeous quilt set I bought for my daughter.

    Barossa Bark. Handmade, lavosh style artisan crisp bread from the Barossa Valley – see photo.

    Disclosure:

    • I.O. Shen knives courtesy of Total Knife Care.
    • Adam’s Big Pot courtesy of Dymocks Books.
    • I attended the opening of Africola as a guest and have since dined there as a paying customer.
  • THA - Peaches and Mangos

    Thoughts on blogging: getting back to basics


    To state the obvious, I haven’t been blogging lately. What started out as a few days break while on an overseas trip became a few more days as I struggled with jet lag and then lengthened into weeks as I struggled to find the motivation to blog.

    As the days went on and I still had no desire to blog I started wondering why I was feeling so uninspired. Some self-reflection was necessary.

    I started my blog in mid 2011 because I wanted to improve my writing and I thought blogging would help me achieve this. In the beginning no one read my posts but I didn’t care – I was just happy to have a new outlet for my writing and to be doing something I found creatively fulfilling. I didn’t blog to get free stuff and I had no desire to be ‘internet famous': I just wanted to get my writing out there.

    Since those early days things have changed a lot, both for me, personally, and in the wider blogging scene. Along the way I’ve met some lovely people, had some great opportunities, been astonished to win some pretty major awards and yes, turned it into a second career of sorts.

    Over the last few years the responsibilities, expectations and opportunities have risen for me. My inbox is full of people who want to work with me in some way.

    Sure, there are the emails from people with more cheek than a Sumo wrestler e.g. “we’ll send you our $30 product in exchange for a blog review” or “we’d like you to create a recipe on your blog for us featuring our product and if we like your photos we might use them on our product packaging.” But alongside these emails there are also many interesting invitations and genuine offers of paid work including countless (paid) sponsored post requests.

    Many bloggers would be thrilled to be in this fortunate position and on one level, I am extremely grateful.

    However,  I don’t blog for the invites, the free meals, the gifted products, or the hosted trips.  Sure, it’s nice to be courted in one way — I’m as human as the next person — but every invitation comes with an expectation that I will reciprocate in some way. To put it another way: there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    Moreover, I have no desire to turn The Hungry Australian into a blog consisting mostly of paid sponsored posts and reviews of hosted experiences and gifted products. There’s nothing wrong with this approach per se but it’s not the type of blog I want to have.  So I turn down opportunity after opportunity, foregoing a not insignificant income I could be making.

    THA - peaches and mangos

    So why do I blog?

    I blog because I hope to become a good writer one day and blogging is part of my practise. When I look at my blog, the posts I’m most proud of are the ones that I just had to write. They’re the stories about my life and the people most important to me – my family and my friends. These are the stories that matter the most to me. These are the stories that I should be writing.

    These stories usually have nothing to do with products, events, services or experiences – they’re just stories about my life and it so happens that food is often involved: sometime food is front and centre of a story and other times it’s just hovering in the background.

    Judging from your comments and emails, these are the stories that a lot of you like the most, too. My story about my brother’s birthday cake made some of you think about your own sibling relationship(s) and a few of you cry.  My stories about my mother prompted some of you to share your own stories with me.

    These are the type of stories that I should be writing but my energy and attention keeps getting distracted by my inbox: I’m spending more time managing my blog and thinking about my blog than actually writing.

    This is not how I want to live my life.

    So going forward, I won’t be running any more advertisements or doing any more paid sponsored posts on The Hungry Australian. And I’ll be even more selective about the invitations and offers I do accept, too.

    However, I will continue to host my Amazon store with the books and products I personally use and recommend. If you purchase something from my store I will make a small commission – thanks for supporting The Hungry Australian.  I will also be writing about hosted travel experiences I have already undertaken and exploring new ideas and options for off-blog projects.

    By choosing to scale back on the amount of work I do with brands on The Hungry Australian, I’m doing the opposite of what a ‘successful’ blogger would probably do. But the beauty of blogging is that you can set your own rules to suit your own circumstances and I need to get back to basics.

    I want to blog like I did at the very beginning, without feeling constrained by expectation or duty. I want to blog because I have an overwhelming desire to, not because I should, or am contractually obliged to. This will mean an irregular publishing schedule so if you want to come along for the ride, I suggest signing up for free blog updates if you haven’t already.

    Thanks for reading The Hungry Australian.