A celebration. A celebration of life no matter how brief. A celebration of life because the alternative is a contemplation of loss and the extraordinary sadness that accompanies it.
Five years ago on this day, a special soul left our family and this earth. She was 19. An artist, a musician, a budding chef, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a friend. There wasn’t a funeral, instead a Memorial Mass and Celebration of Life.
We had only just moved back to Sydney weeks earlier but there was no question about what needed to be done, so we headed back around the world to family.
I’ve struggled with how to write this post for a long time. How to express the feelings going through my head and heart, how to encapsulate a life that left a mark on everyone it came in contact with, and how to do it in a way that honours what she stood for. As with most things I do, it manifested through food – and for A it would have to involve pie.
Pumpkin Pie was her signature and made from a classic recipe. These days most people in our family are eating a bit differently to how we did back then, but we are still entirely unwilling to forgo the foods that define our holidays together. For many family members it is about being unprocessed and ensuring the absence of most allergens – although ironically, wheat, eggs and nuts, while not included in this recipe are not an issue for anyone.
So in A’s honour, a creation that we can all enjoy – a no egg, no dairy, no soy, no gluten, no nuts, no corn, no refined sugar, Vegan Pumpkin Pie. Dressed up for a Christmas celebration of life.
I’ve not yet been able to make it to the Butterfly Garden dedicated in her name, but every time I see a colourful creature flitting through the air I think of her. I know her absence does not get any easier for her little sisters or her parents — or any of us for that matter — as time ticks along.
I wish I could have witnessed her impact on this world as she grew up. I wish she could see her sisters — the opera singer and the photographer — turning into amazing strong women. I wish I could cook with her again.
So instead I’ll bake pie and ask you to consider one of her wishes, that everyone would register to be a bone marrow doner and give blood and platelets to help others suffering with leukaemia. And I wish you a peaceful holiday with your loved ones.
Fly high beautiful girl, we miss you.
Vegan Pumpkin Pie
It’s no secret how I feel about Pumpkin Pie and while there is no egg, no dairy, no soy, no gluten, no nuts, no corn and no refined sugar in this one, it is packed with gorgeous holiday spices and a creamy custard filling. Because everyone deserves pie.
- 1 ¾ c pumpkin puree
- 1 c apple juice
- ½ c coconut milk
- ½ c water (or apple juice/coconut milk/nut milk)
- 2 – 4 Tbsp rice or maple syrup, optional
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- ½ tsp each cloves and allspice
- ¼ tsp each nutmeg and sea salt
- 1/3 c arrowroot or corn flour (see note)
- 3 Tbsp cool water
- 1 pre-baked Gluten Free Quinoa Pie Crust
Prepare and bake your pie crust according to recipe. Start cooking filling just as the crust is removed from the oven.
Combine arrowroot and water in a small dish and stir to mix well. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, whisk together remaining filling ingredients (pumpkin through sea salt). Place over medium heat and cook, whisking regularly, until mixture begins to bubble — about 5 minutes.
Turn heat to low and quickly add arrowroot and water mixture, whisking vigorously for 30 seconds. If using arrowroot remove from heat and whisk for a further 1 minute; if using corn flour, cook for a further 2 minutes while whisking.
Tip immediately into the warm pie crust and smooth the top with an offset palette knife. If you want a pretty pie do not touch surface again (don’t say I didn’t warn you). Eat the bit left in the pan while you let the pie cool on bench for 20 minutes. Cool completely in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Pumpkin: I’ve made this pie with puree from both steamed and roasted pumpkin — I’d suggest Jap (Australia), Kabocha (US), Pie Pumpkin (US) or Butternut — however you can certainly use a 15oz can.
- Syrup: Add as much sweetener as you feel is necessary. It depends on your own taste and the sweetness of your pumpkin! Maple is sweeter, rice syrup is less so. Honey will probably overwhelm the pie, I don’t use agave.
- Arrowroot: Arrowroot and corn flour thicken custards the same way and can be used interchangeably with a small change to cooking method. However DO NOT use tapioca for this recipe — in Australia most products labeled ‘Arrowroot’ are actually Tapioca and while it is fine in cakes and cookies, I find it goes very gluey and stringy in custard.
- Juices and milks: no apple juice? Measure out 1 cup water, remove 2 Tbsp then top up with 2 Tbsp maple syrup. no coconut milk? Replace with almond or rice or oat or hemp or quinoa milk instead.