Thursday, 6 November 2008

Get your five a day - eat cake!

Doctors, politicians, nutritionists and all manner of other health "experts" keep harping on about needing to get our "five a day" of fruit and vegetables. Now, being a vegetarian, it's really not that hard to manage this, and quite frankly if you're veggie and you do find it hard you must be doing something very wrong indeed and might want to consider switching sides.

We usually eat a dinner that mainly consists of vegetables, albeit bulked out with some pasta, or bread or cous cous. But, if we might need a top up of veggie goodness, what better way to do it than by eating cake! Pumpkin and carrot cake to be precise.

A few years ago for Halloween my then flat-mate and I were the lucky recipients of quite possibly the largest pumpkin in the world. It was a gift from a friend who worked on the grocery stall on the market where I was tending the bread stand. He had promised that when Halloween came round he would get me a pumpkin, and wow, what a pumpkin it was. I could barely lift it into the van, and walking home I must have been quite a sight. An ickle person with an uber pumpkin. I must have been somewhat akin to a pumpkin on legs that afternoon.

Now, we gutted and carved it and "Gerald" did us proud. His leering face grinning at us for the whole Halloween weekend. Problem was, we then had a huge bowl of pumpkin flesh sitting in the fridge and no idea what to do with it. I was considerably less adventurous in the kitchen in those days, and after an experiment with pumpkin pie - loved by my housemate, hated by me - we ran out of ideas.

So I decided to do what any self-respecting person would do in that situation. I baked it into a cake! You get carrot cake, why not pumpkin. It's orange, and not too strongly flavoured and goes well in pie with spices. Thus was the birth of the pumpkin cake. It went down very well indeed. Light, moist and spiced it was a lovely autumn surprise.

That was three years ago, and for some reason I just didn't get around to making it again. No pumpkins came my way and alas the recipe I used went astry too.

Then suddenly Halloween rolled round again and I got my act together and bought us a little pumpkin. It didn't get carved this year, there just wasn't time. But it did make itself into a cake. I had to top up the amount of pumpkin needed with carrot, but I think this gives an extra dimension to the flavour. We ate it at half time during the match last night and it was really nice. I can't help thinking though that it will be nicer tonight having had a day to rest and the spices to develop.

I've been storing it in the fridge because of the high veggie content. Just take it out a little before serving so it reaches room temperature as it's nicer when not cold. I adapted this recipe from Rachel Allen's one in Bake. Mostly because it was the first one I found that used a loaf tin rather than sandwich tins. I topped it with orange buttercream icing. I would have preferred a less sweet cream cheese icing in hindsight, but didn't have the ingredients.

Pumpkin and carrot cake, with orange buttercream.

200g grated pumpkin
100g grated carrot
100g raisins (I probably would have soaked these in alcohol if I'd though ahead!)
100ml olive oil
175g self-raising flour
175g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fresh grated nutmet
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice

Grease and line a 5" by 9" loaf pan (I actually used one that was a bit longer than this and it stil worked fine). Preheat the oven to 150C.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then add the oil, sugar, pumpkin, carrot and raisins and mix together. Sift in the dry ingredients and bring the mixture together. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface. Bake on a central rack for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool completely before turning out of the pan.

Orange buttercream icing:

75g unsalted butter, very soft
175g icing sugar
zest of one orange, finely grated
2 tbsp milk
enough juice from the orange to make the icing come together.

mix the butter, zest and milk together, then add the icing sugar and combine. Add enough orange juice to make the icing wet enough to spread easily - though it should still be thick. Ice the cake when completely cool and leave in the fridge to harden the icing slightly before serving.

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