Fresh from the oven, this bread has the perfect texture. Slightly crisp on the outside, the inside is soft and fluffy, more like a cake than a loaf of bread. In fact, it is somewhere on the dough spectrum between scone and cake (the "dough spectrum", categorising baked goods in terms of softness, running as follows: rye bread - soda bread - sourdough - ciabatta - ordinary loaf - scone - muffin - cake. I have just invented this - perhaps the most useful thing I have done all day). The incorporation of mashed, cooked pumpkin and a nice lot of butter into the dough keeps it deliciously soft and moist in the middle, with an intriguing deep autumnal flavour from the addition of winter herbs.
It's simple to make - steam peeled pumpkin or butternut squash until tender. Mash with milk and a beaten egg. Add lots (LOTS!) of black pepper, dried thyme, dried sage and rosemary. OK, so I am a little addicted to dried winter herbs, so add less if you're not a herb fiend. Fresh herbs would of course be preferable, especially fresh thyme and sage. Rosemary, I find, doesn't alter much in flavour whether it's dried or fresh, but fresh thyme has a nice sharpness about it lacking in the dried stuff. You could even add chopped cooked pancetta or bacon. Or grated cheese. Though I save these to eat with the finished product.
Rub butter into flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (as you would for a crumble or pastry, or scones for that matter). Add the mashed pumpkin mixture and mix together into a loose dough. Shape the dough into a sort of round.
Now preheat the oven to 180C and heat some butter in an oven-proof frying pan - one with a fairly small diameter. You just want enough to cover the base of the pan. Use a mixture of butter and olive oil if you want to be sure it won't burn. When the pan is hot, place in the circle of dough and pat it out to fill the pan. It should sizzle nicely and start to smell of baked goodness. Cook for about five minutes, until the underside is toasted. Then - the tricky part - flip it over. You can do this by lightly oiling a plate and placing it over the top of the pan, then turning the pan over so the bread falls out onto the plate. However, it's a nightmare to get off the plate again as it sticks. Probably better to use a couple of fish slices/spatulas, and just try and lift it out and flip it as you would a pancake.
Cook the other side for a few minutes until lightly toasted, then put the pan in the oven for five minutes or so to cook the inside.
The result: a glorious cake-bread with endless uses. Because it's slightly sweet from the pumpkin, it's good eaten with things that are a bit salty: bacon, parma ham, very sharp cheddar. It's also very good dunked into soup - I made some broccoli and bacon soup to go alongside. That said, it's also delicious on its own, or with a bit of butter - a sort of savoury treat for afternoon tea.