TOPICS: Cooking with solar ovens

THE way Celestino Ruivo sees it, the barbecue aromas of the Australian summer could one day come courtesy of the sun.

There are no gas burners in his backyard in Lagos, Portugal. The engineering professor, who's a guest at the Mayfield West CSIRO Energy Centre, is the godfather of solar cooking.

He caught the culinary bug at a conference in 2006 and has since held workshops in Brazil, India and his home country.

You could say he's the Gordon Ramsay of solar cuisine, with less swearing and, erm, more solar cuisine. Actually, it's not the best comparison.

"Let's go, people are waiting," barked the professor as Topics asked him to pose for a photo.

He cooked lunch for us and a group of scientists at the Energy Centre.

Professor Ruivo cooks with solar ovens made of glass and cardboard and foil, and the results are solar potatoes, solar sardines and juicy solar cod.

He also dished up, for Topics and the scientists, bowls of solar beetroot with goat's cheese and a platter of solar carrot cake. It was solar good.

"At home, I cook at the beach and at first no one will take an interest," Professor Ruivo said between forkfuls of potato.

"Then one, two people approach and very soon, I look and I cannot see the sea."

The professor cooks for his family and his mates, has fed an entire troupe of Scouts, and his solar cookers work in the snow. His running costs are non-existent.

Aptly named Hi Pong

WE asked for street names that are quirky or plain wrong, and reader Stephen phoned in.

His dad, Neville, lives in Hat Head, on Straight Street. Stephen lives in Fingal Bay, on Bent Street.

The Minmi Magster Bob Skelton, meanwhile, went to Hong Kong in the '60s and recalls, with a mixture of fondness and revulsion, Hi Pong Road. It was aptly named.

"I tell you, it wasn't an exaggeration," the Magster says.

"It was one of those places where they threw their rubbish on to the street."

Carmel, of Catherine Hill Bay, calculates that she's spent "years" at the corner of Broadmeadow and Griffiths roads, Georgetown, waiting to turn right.

Recently, she had an epiphany. That corner has a row of three businesses: a window tinter, a printer shop and a mechanical repairer, which equals . . .

"Tint, print, dint," says Carmel.

"Well, not really dints, but close."

Rack 'em up, cyclists

DOESN'T it just invigorate the soul when someone has a great idea?

And you wonder how you ever did without it? Like those handles in the aisles on buses, or the beer cans with wide mouths?

Well we've stumbled upon one in Newcastle's King Street. It's a bike rack that takes up a car space but provides storage for 10 cyclists to park their steeds.

The rack was put there by Newcastle Now, whose office is on King Street. They anticipate a bit of grizzling about it taking up a spot but point out that it's useful to more than a carload of people.

Project officer Petra Hilsen has been parking her bike in it. She reckons Newcastle is slowly getting its act together as a city for cyclists.

"I'm seeing many more women [riding bikes] and more people in normal clothes on shorter trips," she told Topics.

"There are fewer in Lycra."

The rack will stay there for four weeks and Newcastle Now has heard expressions of interest from businesses that want it outside their own offices.

Are you a cyclist? Would you use it? Where should it go next?

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