WHEN the haze of summer has retreated into memory I can start looking forward to the crisp mornings and cosy evenings of the cooler months. October often boasts fresh, crystal blue skies as a backdrop for its warm, earthen hues; a colourful feast for the senses as I relish the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot and the first traces of wood smoke on the air. This transitional month allows me the first few pleasures of winter as I tentatively nestle into my scarf and wrap both hands around my coffee cup. Starry nights mean cold mornings with dustings of frost and the muffled rub of gloved fingers. When the days are dull and cloudy we are all given licence to hunker down, dig a blanket out and take it slow, the frenzy of social summer afternoons behind us.

As the evenings begin to darken you’ll find me in the kitchen, wooden spoon in hand and a fresh pot of tea on the counter. My baking behaviour shifts back towards comfort, meaning loaf cakes, rustic breads and plenty of spices. In the kitchen it is particularly gratifying to work closely with the cycle of nature; to embrace the abundance of seasonal produce found here in the UK and incorporate these unique ingredients into cooking and baking.

Pumpkin is synonymous with the month of October; a popular symbol of Halloween and all things ‘spooky’. However, this humble gourd is more than just lantern fodder, it is a seasonal delicacy and it shouldn’t be overlooked. It is a versatile vegetable, as delicious sprinkled with cinnamon sugar as it is with chilli oil and salt. It’s soft, orange flesh makes an excellent baking ingredient due to its sweet, starchy qualities; I like to roast and purée a big batch and have it on hand to add subtle flavour and moisture to cakes and savoury bakes.

Start your bright autumn weekends with a pile of these Pumpkin Pancakes before heading out for a tramp about in the woods. Sweet, decadent and sustaining they are the perfect fuel for kicking up some leaves. Serve them up with lashings of smoky maple syrup and tangy crème fraiche. For a savoury treat try whipping up a batch of Pumpkin Parmesan Scones; sweet pumpkin melds with salty parmesan for a moist, flavoursome crumb. Serve warm from the oven with a puddle of butter then pop the rest in a lunchbox for later. Or spend a rainy afternoon mixing up one of my favourite bakes, a simple Pumpkin Loaf; a gently spiced cake that pairs well with a woolly jumper and mug of something steamy.