Sunday, 19 April 2015

spiced pumpkin & pecan loaf with dreams of a picnic...

Pumpkin is one of my all time favourite vegetables, especially the sweet-smooth variety that can double up as an alternative to potato mash. And just like carrots it makes for the most gorgeous desserts. I love the bright saffron orange hue, the creamy texture and the fact that I enjoy it equally in sweet and savoury dishes. I usually bake pumpkin pie, which is one of my dad's favourites but decided on a loaf just because I wasn't in the mood to make a pastry crust and wanted a slice on the go, despite the fact I was going nowhere for the next two days. In my head I was wrapping slices in brown greaseproof paper and tying it up with string and going on a picnic. One can only dream for picnic weather during a British Spring.

My choice of loaf over pie also depended on what was in the cupboard and I decided to make light work of my shopping, seeing as I didn't have a shopping genie handy. Tins of evaporated milk are not light I'll have you know. I'm one of those annoying supermarket meanderers, trailing miles behind on a shopping trip, getting in people's way and apologising at every turn (though that could be mistaken for being a Londoner). You'd think I hadn't left the house in months! My little sister tries to avoid taking me to the supermarket if she’s shopping for groceries as she says I hold her up. I say she's bossy:) Anyway, seeing as she wasn't around I took a trip all by my lonesome to the nearest shop and bought pecans, brown sugar and mixed spice. And as is usually the case I ended up buying lots more (un)necessary stuff that wasn't on my failed non-existent list. 

This loaf is so simple and actually works better if you mix it by hand, for a rustic look and taste. In fact, I don't own a food processor and am a little afraid of big fat mixers so I prefer doing everything by hand - just like they did back in 1815. For an added crunch I sprinkled a few tablespoons of brown sugar on top of before putting the mixture in the oven, which created a beautiful glaze like crust. This loaf keeps well in an airtight container or covered cake tin for a few days and my sister said it tasted even better on the second day.

Ingredients (Serves 8)
200g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
250g fresh puréed pumpkin
200g brown sugar plus 3 tablespoons for sprinkling on top
2 medium free range eggs
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
120 ml oil
80g chopped pecan nuts
A pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180c or 160c fan/gas mark 4)

Cut pumpkin into cubes and boil until soft then drain and mash with a fork. Or, you can roughly purée in a blender and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes. The consistency should resemble smooth mashed potatoes not a smoothie. 

Whisk eggs, oil and sugar together in one bowl and add the mixed spice and vanilla extract.

Add the cooled pumpkin purée to this mixture.

Measure out the flour and add baking powder to it, then slowly incorporate into the wet ingredients.

Finally add the chopped pecans and place the mixture into a loaf tin lined with grease proof paper or greased and floured. Add a sprinkle of brown sugar on top.

Bake for 50-60 mins or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.

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