Spicy Pumpkin Loaf

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Am I the only person who got sick of the influx of pumpkin-infused recipes that took over the web this winter? Because there were A LOT – I know that everyone has to do at least one pumpkin pie over the holidays, but surely we don’t have to ram pumpkin into our coffee, cupcakes, frosting, buns, cinnamon buns, breakfast bowls and oatmeal? What really got to me was that most of the recipes followed the same format: take a lot of pureed pumpkin, add a lot of cream, top with a lot of cinnamon and brown sugar and voila! – you’re done.

Yes, it really irritated me.

Which is why I’m mildly ashamed to show you this. It is, I will admit, pumpkin, and there’s no getting around that. But I suspect that in this case, you won’t mind.

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This isn’t one of those overloaded-with-caramel pumpkin dessert recipes. In fact, this is a savory loaf. A deceptively light savory loaf that you can slice and enjoy with a bit of butter at breakfast, or tea time. It isn’t made with pumpkin puree or stuff from a can, but honest-to-god fresh pumpkin that is diced, sprinkled with olive oil and herbs and roasted for the better part of an hour, until it is tender and aromatic and altogether delicious.

This is then mashed with the back of a fork (or, if you’re super enthusiastic, a blender) and mixed with some flour, herbs, a smattering of cheese and crushed red peppers for a bit of a kick. This recipe (which is adapted from one of my mother’s passed-down recipes for a cheese loaf) is beautifully simple, does not require any finicky steps and produces a thick, chewy loaf that’s a nice palate cleanser from all the over-sweet pumpkin dishes we’ve been eating the last few months.

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Ingredients

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/4 of a large pumpkin (should reduce to a cup of mash after being roasted) + 1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup grated or crumbled cheddar

2 cups whole wheat

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp dried sage

1 tsp dried oregano (or any other herb of your choice)

1 tsp crushed red peppers

1/2 tsp salt + more to taste

Method

Dice the pumpkin into square-inch cubes and lay it out on a well-greased/sprayed baking tray. Sprinkle a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt on it, then add the oregano/herb of your choice and bake at 150 C for around half an hour to 45 minutes. If you bake it for longer and at a lower temperature, the flavours should intensify best. When it’s done, the pumpkin should be a rich, golden-orange shade and tender.

Let the pumpkin cool, and then mash it with a fork or in a blender. Once it’s pulpy and as smooth as you can get it, whisk together the eggs and milk and pour it into the pumpkin mash, beating to ensure everything combines well.

Sift together the dry ingredients: the whole wheat, baking powder, sage, crushed red pepper and salt, and then add the pumpkin mixture in three batches, beating in between. Once it’s holding together, stir in the crumbled cheddar.

Pour the batter into a greased/sprayed loaf pan and bake at 180 C until it’s well done, around an hour. Test with a toothpick to make sure it’s done (the top should be golden-orange and puffy), and then allow to cool before slicing. Tastes best with a knob of butter.

Notes: this recipe, while it had a lovely crumb and held together beautifully, was a touch on the eggy side. If this isn’t your style, you can reduce the number of eggs to 2 and it still works out perfectly (I tried it the following week).

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