I always forget just how much I love autumn. At the end of the summer there's always that lull, where evenings get darker and mornings colder, and I wish it could be May again; the trees heavy with hawthorn and cherry blossom and the promise of warm days to come. (Or, most likely, rain in June and July followed by a few muggy days in August if you're lucky.)
But then I remember why it's such a great time of the year; the smell of woodsmoke and wet dog; pints of bitter sat around the pub fire; colours changing from green to red to gold; rustling piles of leaves begging to be kicked; misty mornings; frost on lawns and firework parties. But best of all is the food. Gone are the salad, replaced by crispy jacket potatoes and hot sausages; sticky toffee apples, steaming bowls of soup and spicy gingerbread.
Good gingerbread is the type of cake which, if you have the patience, is better eaten a few days later. Kept wrapped from prying eyes in greaseproof paper it becomes even richer and stickier.
This easy recipe, adapted from Good Food's Pumpkin Cake, is the marriage of three great Autumnal ingredients; squash, black treacle and ginger. I roasted the squash first, instead of grating it raw into the batter, and added treacle for bitterness. A good slug of rum, orange zest, raisins, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg finish things off.
Despite the rich ingredients this is a surprisingly light cake, and a cinch to throw together. And, as it keeps extraordinarily well, a batch made from the discarded guts of a Halloween jack-o'-latern now will make the perfect Bonfire Night finale in a few days time.
Pumpkin and Treacle Gingerbread
300g pumpkin (or squash) peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
100g brown sugar
100g black treacle
2 tbsp golden rum
150g self raising flour
1/ tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Zest of one orange
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Heat oven to 180C Butter and line a 24 x 24cm baking or small roasting tin with baking parchment.
Place pumpkin on an oven tray and roast for 20 minutes, or until soft and golden at the edges. Allow to cool and then roughly chop or mash.
Melt butter in a small saucepan, add the raisins, rum and treacle and allow to cool.
Put the flour, sugar, spice, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and stir to combine.
Beat the eggs into the melted butter, stir in the orange zest, then mix with the dry ingredients till combined. Stir in the pumpkin mixture.
Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30 mins, or until golden and springy to the touch.
Allow to cool on a baking tray before cutting into squares and storing in an airtight tin.
To warm those fingers and toes on a chilly evening serve hot with ice cream or cream, or enjoy a square or two with an afternoon cup of coffee.