Change is a-comin’.
It’s no longer pitch black when I leave the house for work in the mornings. I’m no longer sleeping with three blankets, and I’ve actually lost track of how long it’s been since I’ve had to throw water on the windshield of my car to defrost the ice in a hurry.
Everything is luxuriously green – even the algae and moss growing in our sad excuse for a pool is looking verdant and full of growth. The hayfever sufferers are sneezing all around me and I’m sure that antihistamine sales at pharmacies all around the country are skyrocketing.
Spring has arrived with much fanfare, and those of us who thought that winter would never end are rejoicing.
I say “somewhat” because unfortunately, the weather is still f*cking with us here in my home town of Melbourne. Notoriously famous in Australia for being the city with schizophrenic weather patterns, I’m fairly sure that the erratic weather exists purely to torment those unfortunate souls who happen to call this city home.
You see, I may no longer be sleeping with three blankets, but I’m still sleeping with the electric blanket cranked all the way up.
I’m no longer needing to defrost the windshield, but I’m still shivering like a dog sh*tting razorblades in the car each morning as I furiously finish my morning cigarette so I can wind the car windows back up.
I’m no longer making long, slow braises or roasts…because I’m so busy sneezing out half my brain during the day.
Don’t get me wrong – I adore Spring as it’s by far my favourite season of the four, but this transitional period when winter still has us by the hairy nads does nobody any favours since the worst parts of both spring and winter come together in a haphazard collision of seasons.
And while I eagerly look forward to the luscious bounty that spring and summer will bring, I sorrowfully wave farewell to those fruits and vegetables that I’ve so enjoyed during the colder months. I’m currently eating as many apples as I can stomach as I refuse to buy the mealy, leftover, cold-stored and out of season supermarket fruit during the latter half of the year. I’m ravishing broccoli left right and centre since the warmer seasons will see prices skyrocket for this cold-loving green.
And I’m dolefully clinging onto the cheap, end of season pumpkins and their sweet, succulent softness as they begin to disappear from the markets.
One thing that I’m planning on doing is to stock up on this spiced sweet pumpkin loaf. Moist and sweet from the pumpkin and fragrant with spices, it is a perfect sweet loaf for the colder months when pumpkins are plentiful and comfort foods are called for.
This is, in fact, the perfect winter loaf. Though sweet, it pairs beautifully with a thick layer of salted butter or even soft goat’s cheese, and thus makes the perfect afternoon pick me up when the skies are overcast and you are clinging desperately to a fresh mug of tea for warmth.
So well does this suit the season, that I’m hoping that indulging in a slice of this during our sweltering summer will help me imagine that it’s back to winter and I’m curled up in a blanket with a slice of this while listening to the rain fall outside…
Spiced Sweet Pumpkin Loaf
400g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
250 caster sugar
100g brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
200ml sunflower oil
500g grated raw pumpkin
100g toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
100g dried cranberries
1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C, then whisk together the flour and sugar with the spices (cinnamon, mixed spice, ginger, nutmeg) and the baking powder and bicarb soda. Add the walnuts and cranberries and toss to coat.
Tossing the walnuts and cranberries in the flour helps stop it all from sinking to the bottom during baking, and is a good general rule to follow whenever including large “bits” (chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit etc) in cakes.
2. Whisk together the oil with the eggs till emulsified.
3. Add your grated pumpkin to the flour and fold to combine – make sure you’re thorough to avoid any ‘clumps’ of pumpkin forming.
4. Add your liquid and mix well. This makes a very stiff batter so once again, please be thorough so you don’t have any flour pockets in the batter. Spoon the mixture into a large, lined loaf tin and bake for 90 – 120 minutes, or till a skewer inserted into the middle comes out completely clean and dry.
Note that this loaf freezes ridiculously well. You can freeze the whole thing as is by wrapping it tightly in a double-layer of plastic wrap, or you can wrap individual slices. While this is best defrosted overnight in the fridge, you can bring it back to life quickly via microwave, toaster oven or even with a sandwich press