July 19, 2017


This month was my birthday. 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 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 moulding my passion into a career. But I have stuck it out and am grateful to all of you who have followed along and supported 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 lovely reviews and new exciting opportunities are on the horizon. 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 a pinch of determination, I truly believe dreams do come true.

My underlying thread throughout the years has been my garden-to-plate approach, even before this became popular, it simply resonated with me to eat and cook this way. So on that subject let’s talk about squash and pumpkin. Both are underrated vegetables in my opinion. They are 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 I prefer to plant the seeds saved from last season’s harvest. My favourites are 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 include thinly sliced and used in place of lasagna sheets; roasted then squashed onto a pizza base in place of tomato sauce, sprinkled with oregano and olive oil then add toppings and cheese; using in sourdough bread dough. Plus adding to pancakes, waffles and even caramel slices – if you have a copy of my new cookbook, look up ‘pumpkin’ in the index for recipes in this mode.

The recipe I share below was 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 and then top with creamy blue cheese, but it is equally delicious with a simple smear of butter.

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GINGERBREAD with Roasted Squash

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.


  • 100 g butter
  • about 3/4 packed cup roasted squash or pumpkin
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon molasses or golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar or 4 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 cup white flour*
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal flour (or use extra white flour)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 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 wholemeal 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/syrup, vinegar and sugar and beat together.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the flour and remaining dry ingredients. Pour over the wet mixture and fold until just combined – 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 a cooling rack. Eat warm or toasted with a smear of butter or a 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 oven heat and roast vegetables once the bread is ready.










Join the Conversation

  1. Annette Buchanan says:

    I love your book homegrown kitchen. I am frighting the return of cancer and they say food is medicine. You have given me so many good ideas.

    Do you have other cooking books?


    1. Hi Annette, that is great to hear. I strongly believe a positive connection with food is important to be happy and healthy.
      I have written 3 other cookbooks but unfortunately they are all out of print now. The first one was from 2004 and I incorporated some of the contents into the pages of Homegrown Kitchen. The other two were focused on healthy food for babies and toddlers and family meals.
      Happy cooking!

  2. This loaf is delicious thanks Nicola !! I made it this afternoon and it turned out so light and fluffy and made the house smell delicious.

    1. Hi Laura, that is great to hear. I often wonder if others make my recipes and how they turn out – so thank-you for your message.
      Happiest cooking 🙂

  3. Rosie-Anne Pinney says:

    This gingerbread is absolutely delicious – thank you so much. Mine took one and a quarter hours to cook (I have an old oven) but was so worth it.

    1. Hi Rosie-Anne, thank-you for your message. I am thrilled you love the gingerbread, it is not as sweet as most recipes so may not suit everyone’s taste but how I like to bake so it is just sweet enough.
      Yes, ovens can vary, some can be 20C or more lower/higher than the dial! I use an oven thermometer for testing recipes to get the times as accurate as possible but believe it always best to go with your instinct. Smell and touch are incredible senses to tune into when cooking 🙂
      Thanks again, Nicola

  4. We’ve made your loaf twice this week; it doesn’t seem to last!! I love how soft it is. Thanks Nicola!

    1. Thank-you Lucila, always lovely to hear from you 🙂

  5. I made this this afternoon Nicola, sooooooo good. It was hard to stop eating it to save some for later!!! Thank you xoxo

    1. Hi Jeanette, this has certainly been a popular recipe! Thanks for your message, I love hearing how my recipes come out in another kitchen. Happiest cooking 🙂

  6. Delicious!

  7. Maria Topia says:

    Hi Nicola,

    This recipe looks wonderful. My little girl is allergic to eggs and butter. Can I still make this using substitute ingredients?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Maria, I have tried this recipe without eggs so can’t guarantee it would work. I find flax or chia egg replacement works for denser crumbed baking but might be too heavy for this loaf as it is quite light in texture. But if you don’t mind it slightly more dense then give it go! Regarding dairy it would be fine to sub with coconut oil or dairy-free spread.

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