This week I turned 38. I don’t know about you, but I often find myself reflecting on life during my birthday month – although this also could be influenced by winter hibernation mode. For whatever reason it has been a strong time of contemplation, in particular around my work – how far I have come and where I want to focus my energy in the coming years. For 15 years I have been writing recipes and teaching others about eating well – since I was 23! I was such a spring chicken when I began, and I have learned so so much along the way, honing my knowledge and skills that I love sharing with others.
In all honesty this hasn’t always been an easy path molding my passion into a career, and there have been times (even recently) where I have seriously thought of bowing out. But I have stuck it out and grateful to all of you who have followed along and supporting me along the way. Honestly, I wouldn’t be here without your interest in all that I do. Since the release of my new cookbook in April I have received some humbling reviews and new exciting opportunities are on the horizon, some of which I will be sharing with you in the coming months. On reflection, I feel this past year I have made the breakthrough I have been working towards for 15 years. With a heart of passion and pinch of determination I truly believe dreams do come true, however big or small.
My underlying thread throughout the years has been my garden-to-table approach, even before this became on-trend, it simply resonates with me to eat and cook this way… So on that subject let’s talk about squash and pumpkin. Both underrated vegetables in my opinion. They are ridiculously easy to grow, in fact mindlessly scooping the seeds into a compost bin can result in plants growing without any effort at all. Although getting the variety you desire isn’t guaranteed using this method so I prefer to plant the seeds saved from last seasons harvest. My favourites being crown pumpkin, buttercup squash, kabocha (pictured) and the magical spaghetti squash – I first came across these 15 years ago when living in Canada and have grown them since, you can now find them in some supermarkets so keep an eye out – you won’t be sorry.
Beyond roasting pumpkin or squash by itself or with a vegetable medley, there are so many ways they can be handled. Some of my favourites being thinly sliced and used in place of lasagna sheets; roasted then squashed onto a pizza base in place of tomato sauce, sprinkle with oregano and olive oil then add toppings and cheese; using in sourdough bread dough (I will be sharing more on this in good time); plus adding to pancakes, waffles and sweet recipes – if you have a copy of my new cookbook, look up ‘pumpkin’ in the extensive index for recipes in this vein. The recipe I share below was actually a dropout from the pages of the book – I had to draw the line somewhere! So I share it here today, a gingerbread loaf, spiced to perfection, not overly sweet, with a nice hint of burnt caramel from the addition of molasses (a current winter obsession). My preference is to toast slices then top with creamy blue cheese, but it is equally delicious with a smear of butter or nut butter.
I love using cooked sweet vegetables in baking to add sweetness and moisture while adding a sneaky boost of goodness. When I am roasting squash or pumpkin for dinner I always cook extra for adding to baking – see directions below.
about 3/4 packed cup roasted squash or pumpkin
3 free-range eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon molasses or honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar or 4 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup white flour*
1/2 cup oat flour – grind rolled oats in a coffee/spice grinder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or hazelnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
*gluten-free – use gluten-free flour mix + 1/2 cup almond meal for the oat flour
- Preheat oven to 180°C. Line and grease a 10 x 20cm loaf tin.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the roasted squash and mash well. Add the eggs, ginger, molasses or honey, vinegar and sugar and beat together.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the flours and remaining dry ingredients. Pour over the wet mixture and just fold together – don’t over mix. Tip into the lined loaf tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer to cooling rack. Eat warm or toasted with a smear of butter or slice of creamy blue cheese.
Roasted Squash or Pumpkin. Once a week or so through the autumn and winter months I roast a whole squash or half pumpkin to use in cooking and baking as suggested above. Chop into large similar sized wedges (I get 10-12 wedges from a kabocha or butternut squash) and arrange on a lightly greased baking tray. Brush lightly with olive oil and roast at 190C for 30-40 minutes until the flesh is tender when pierced with a knife. As I bake bread every second day I make the most of the ovens heat and roast vegetable once the bread is ready.
Term 3 Cooking Workshops
I have several places left for Cooking Workshops in Christchurch this term. Follow the links below for more details. I am also planning a South Island Sourdough Tour and will visit several smaller towns later in the year, please contact me if you are interested in hosting/assisting a workshop in your area.