Pumpkin Tom Yum and releasing fear

Pumpkin Tom Yum
Jump to recipe
Seated on a cushion on the floor, my jeans too rigid to allow me to cross my legs, I lit my candle and called myself into the room. With my gaze low I took in the petals placed with reverence for the space on the bare wooden floor. A free flowing pink mandala. And all the women circled around it.
My breathing was shallow. My heart a bass drum. My face ready to crack. Emotion swirled around us. Brushed each of our cheeks. Touched each of our shoulders. Squeezed each of our hands. You are safe here. You belong. These are your people. This connection is real.
We listened. We sniffed. Tears silently fell. It was extraordinary. It was powerful. It was palpable. The love. And respect. And care. The honour and space we held for each other. As we paid attention to the answers to the question posed. When you leave here, what do you want to leave behind?
Here was Crescent Head. A girl’s weekend to celebrate one of the finest humans I know see in her fortieth year in style. With surfing and cocktails and dressing up and roller skates and skinny dips. The days were jam packed from dawn until well beyond dusk.
It’s brave to give a voice to your thoughts. To speak aloud your most private beliefs. It takes courage. A willingness to free fall, vulnerable and open into the arms of others. Hoping that they will catch you.
In the circle, I couldn’t share. For some reason I felt exposed all weekend long. Raw. Unravelled. I created a menu for two dinners for 30 people. Dishes I’d never cooked before. But ones I thought would would bring joy, connection and fun to mealtimes. And a cake to celebrate the Canadian lady of the moment, complete with maple buttercream. With me, what you see is what you get. Yet you might not guess the amount of thought that goes into everything. The care. And probably two months of planning. It’s partly my undoing. But it’s also where I soar. Teetering on the brink. Ok if I fall, but knowing that I can probably make it. What did I want to leave behind? The voice in my head. The constant negative self talk. The saddest story I know. And I don’t know how to do that. To leave it behind. It’s why I do hard things. Why I set myself challenges. To keep moving forward, despite the whisper that tells me I’m not worth it.
I may not have left that voice behind, but through writing I am always more able to share my feelings. With the aim of touching others. Making the ugly beautiful. Making it common. And that circle of women is everything. They are the support. The glue. The voice of reason. They’re also the challenge. The inspiration. And the awe.
“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you, a place for you to go to be with your mother, with your sisters, and the aunts, with your grandmothers, and the great and the great great grandmothers, a place of women to go, to be, to return to, as women? How might your life have been different?” Circles of stones Judith Duerk
This story was written for my monthly newsletter over at Chef by the Sea. But it didn’t feel right to share it there. So I wrote another newsletter. Something in me wanted to share this version though, so I read it aloud at a circle to celebrate the Winter solstice. Then I scrunched the sheet of paper up and threw it in the fire. Watched it burn. Set it free. And shared this delicious pumpkin tom yum with my friends. An embrace for your soul in a mug.

Pumpkin tom yum with sesame soy nuts

Pumpkin tom yum
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 leek, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Bunch coriander roots, chopped
Thumb ginger, chopped
Finger turmeric, chopped (optional)
1-2 red chillies, chopped
1 butternut pumpkin, peeled and cubed
1 litre chicken stock (or water)
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 cans coconut cream
2-4 tablespoons fish sauce
2-4 tablespoons brown sugar
2-3 lime, juices

Melt the coconut oil in a large pot and add the sliced leek. Pop the lid on the
pot and sweat over a low heat until the leek is starting to caramelise and
brown on the bottom of the pot.
Add the garlic, coriander roots, ginger and chilli (and optional turmeric) and
stir well until the aromatics are fragrant.
Add the pumpkin, chicken stock (or water) and coconut cream, bring to the
boil, then simmer gently until the pumpkin is soft.
Remove the kaffir lime leaves and using a stick or counter top blender, whizz
the soup until it’s silky smooth.
Add the fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice, whizz again and taste. The
soup should be spicy, but also sweet, salty and sour. Add additional
seasoning as required and enjoy.

Sesame soy nuts
20g cashews
20g pepitas
20g peanuts
20g sesame seeds
Soy sauce
Sesame oil

Mix the nuts in a bowl then add a tablespoon of soy sauce and half a
teaspoon of sesame oil. Coat the nuts in the liquid then spread over a baking
tray in a single layer. Bake at 150o for around 15-20 minutes until nuts are dry
and crisp.

If you liked this recipe you might also like Tuscan kale bean soup

An all time icing recipe

Someone told me, never cook for love. Food isn’t love. It’s fuel. Don’t give your energy away in your cooking. Keep your energy. Keep your love, for yourself.
I entirely disagree.
Food for me is so many things. It’s creative. It’s historical. It tells a story. Tells of place. Sparks memories. It creates community and connection. When someone is grieving, you give them a meal. To celebrate, you share a meal. It’s the easiest way of outstretching a hand of kindness. It’s a way of bringing joy. I would argue that food very much is love.
I freely confess that I will cook at any given opportunity. A picnic. A party. A weekend away. And when the occasions are more meaningful. More poignant. I’ll go out of my way to create something extra tasty. Buy new equipment. Seek out weird ingredients. Try any number of recipes to find the perfect one.
This weekend just gone, I cooked at a friend’s fortieth. She is one of the best humans I know. A true gem. Generous. Wise. Thoughtful. Inclusive. The list could go on. She also wins the prize for the biggest planner I know. Her calendar mapped out with fun and adventure months in advance. So this celebration had been on the cards for a while. Which means I’d been thinking about what I might cook for just as long.
I hadn’t voiced those thoughts though. Too scared people would roll their eyes. Clare cooking again. But if I didn’t volunteer, didn’t put my hand up and share my ideas, I feel I would be doing a disservice to myself. Trying to hide the truest part of me, simply for fear of what others might think. The kitchen really is my happy place. Trying new recipes is my passion. And I don’t mind washing up, but I really would rather be over the stove.
Still, this weekend got the better of me. I felt drained. Cracked wide open. Raw. Did I screw it up? Did people go hungry? Well, no. I kind of pulled off what I set out to. Created the vision in my head. Even the cake. Which I took up in separate parts. Four tiers of chocolate sponge. And a bowl of Italian meringue buttercream. Except it was so cold I had a bit of trouble bringing the buttercream, maple flavour, a nod to the Canadian lady of the hour, back to life before I could use it. I’m usually always able to keep my cool and find a solution to problems. But my emotions. They run wild. The negative self talk. Not doubt. Just the reverberating hurtful comments along the lines of not being good enough.
So I can understand why someone would tell me to keep my energy. Keep my love, for myself. That food is not love. But you know what, I would rather give it away. I would rather be vulnerable. Be brave. Share my heart. And my food.

italian meringue buttercream icing

Italian meringue buttercream

You will need a freestanding mixer with a whisk attachment and a digital cooking thermometer for this recipe

7 egg whites (about 260ml)
500ml maple syrup or honey OR 400g sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup water
500g room temperature butter cut into cubes
Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.
While the whites are whisking, heat your chosen sugar until it reaches in a pot over a moderate heat until it reaches a temperature of 110º
The white should form fluffy peaks in the time it takes the sugar to come to temperature.
With the mixer still running, take the saucepan, and with a confident steady hand, pour the hot liquid into the bowl of the mixer. Be careful not to pour the syrup on the beaters, or you will have spun sugar! Tip it almost down the side of the bowl. The whites should become glossy and smooth.
Now leave the cooked whites to whisk for about 10 minutes. This will allow them to cool to room temperature.
When the whites have cooled down, which you can tell by placing your hand on the side of the bowl to see if it still feels warm or not, add the butter cube by cube to the mix.
The mix will ‘deflate’. As long as it only looses volume and doesn’t split, which would happen if you added the butter while the mixture was still too warm, keep going. Trust in the process.
Once all the butter is added, you will have the silkiest, smoothest, creamiest buttercream, the kind that dreams are made of.



italian meringue buttercream icing

Italian meringue buttercream icing

italian meringue buttercream icing



Two things can go wrong with the icing. I know. Both have happened to me and I’ve had to rework the icing the hard way. Through trial and error. So I would like to share how to fix things if they go amiss.

If the icing is too warm still when you add the butter, the butter will start to melt and the icing split. What I mean by this is that there will appear to be two sets of liquid in the bowl. One more viscous than the other. Do not panic. First up you can take an ice pack, or even a bag of frozen peas, from the freezer and hold it against the side of the bowl and continue to whisk. If the mixture was only a little bit hot, this trick should cool it enough that it comes back together. If this still doesn’t work though, take the whole bowl and place it in the freezer for a few minutes, then re-whisk. The cooled mixture will eventually come back together.

The opposite thing can also happen. The icing can split because it becomes too cold. When this happens you may be able to bring the mixture back to a silky texture by holding a hot cloth against the side of the bowl while you whisk. If this isn’t enough, you can place the entire bowl over a pan of steaming water, bain-marie style, and whisk. As parts of the mixture warm and melt, the whole lot will become a smooth dreamy consistency once again.

italian meringue buttercream icing

italian meringue buttercream icing

italian meringue buttercream icing

Enjoy this icing recipe, then you might like this easy upside down pineapple cake