I’m a big scaredy cat. I can barely watch five minutes of a horror film before running behind the sofa and Strange but True? with Michael Aspel scared the living daylights out of me when I was younger. I’m still quite fond of Halloween in a nostalgic kind of way though.
It’s odd that what is essentially a day to celebrate the dead has turned into a national holiday. We have those pesky Americans to thank for that, but hey, isn’t it fun? Who doesn’t love an opportunity to dress up, demand sweets from strangers and play with fire?
Pumpkins are the kings of the cucurbita family, which includes squashes and courgettes, and the real symbol of Halloween. You’ll see jack-o’-lanterns in windowsills on every street at the moment and it’s worth remembering that these golden globes have substance as well as style. Pumpkins and squashes are great in winter stews, soups and salads but as proven by the prevailing popularity of the pumpkin spice latte, they can also satisfy a sweet tooth.
This week, I’ve used pumpkin in a zesty and subtly spiced cake that is both trick (yup, apple sauce really can substitute egg) and treat.
I actually picked up an onion squash from M&S which I used in this recipe but you could scoop out the flesh (sounds creepy, doesn’t it?) from a normal pumpkin before the kids carve into it. You can also use the pre-chopped packs of butternut squash if you’re short of time.
These moreish morsels are pretty easy to make and as it’s half term, it’s also a good way to entertain your little monsters.
Spiced pumpkin tray bake
Makes 16 squares
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g brown or demerara sugar
1 small pumpkin or squash (about 200g cubed)
1 ripe banana, mashed
120ml plant milk
3 tablespoons maple syrup or golden syrup
50 ml sunflower oil
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons apple sauce
½ orange, zest and juice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
A grating of nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 200C (gas mark 6). Slice the pumpkin or squash into wedges (it’s easier to peel and deseed once it’s cooked) and place in an oven-proof dish with 50ml of water. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and cook for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
Meanwhile, sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and stir together with the sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the banana, plant milk, oil, apple sauce, orange zest and juice, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of water.
When the pumpkin or squash is cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 170C (gas mark 3). When cooled, remove the peel and seeds and cut into smallish chunks and stir into the banana mixture.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the contents of the other bowl. Mix together.
Grease an 8×8 inch tin and pour in the mixture, making sure to spread it evenly. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for about 50 minutes. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the tin, then slice into squares. If stored in an airtight container, it will last for five days.