Banana bread with dates

When I cut into this banana bread, still warm and steaming from the oven, and had my first exploratory taste, I decided that this could possibly be the best banana bread I’ve ever made. Some banana breads are too dry, some are too oily, but this banana bread was just, absolutely right.

It’s essentially Nigella’s recipe from How to Eat, with a few substitutions. If you have some overripe bananas, give it a go – you may fall in love just as I did.


100g chopped dates
75mls rum
(a leftover bottle I use for cooking as it was declared by the Husband, whom I bought it for, to be the wrong brand)
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 small ripe bananas (about 300g without skin), mashed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the chopped dates and rum into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and let sit for an hour until the fruit has absorbed the liquid. I left it on the heat for too long and the dates soaked up the rum immediately, which worked fine as well.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until well blended. Beat in the eggs and then the bananas. Then stir in the soaked dates, cranberries and vanilla extract.

Add the flour to the butter mixture, one third at a time, stirring well after each addition. Scrape the mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin, and bake at 170C for 1 to 1 and a quarter hours. When it’s ready, a skewer should come out mostly clean. Leave to cool in the tin until you can bear it no longer and cut yourself the first slice.

Nigella's Meatballs

I’m not a big fan of pork, so I was a bit suspicious about these meatballs from a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. However, the husband’s sister had raved about the recipe, and I thought I could probably bear the taste of pork if mixed in with the beef mince. I’m glad I tried them – while I think I’d prefer them made with just beef mince, they are delicious, with a lovely thick sauce, and a gorgeous accompaniment to spaghetti or fettucine.

For the meatballs:

250g minced pork
250g minced beef
1 egg
2 tbspns freshly grated parmesan
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
3 tbspns semolina or breadcrumbs
good grind black pepper
1 tspn salt

For the sauce:

1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tspn dried oregano
1 tbspn butter
1 tbspn olive oil
700g bottle tomato passata
pinch sugar
salt and pepper
100ml full fat milk

Dump all the meatball ingredients into a large bowl, mix with your hands (not something I enjoyed doing – I’m not crazy about raw meat, especially when it’s minced), and then shape into small balls, using approximately a teaspoonsful of mince (although it’s not necessary to actually measure it). This is a little time consuming, but not fiddly. Place the meatballs on baking sheets or plates that you have either lined with gladwrap or lightly oiled, and put in the fridge as you finish them.

Nigella recommends blitzing the onion, garlic and oregano in a food processor – I didn’t bother, and just finely chopped it all together. Heat the butter and oil in a deep wide pan, add the onion-garlic mix and cook over a low-medium for about 10 minutes, letting the mixture become soft. Add the bottle of passata and then fill the empty bottle half full with cold water. Add this to the pan with the pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes.

Stir the milk into the sauce, and then carefully drop the meatballs in one by one. Don’t stir the pan until the meatballs have turned brown to avoid breaking them up. Cook everything for about 20 minutes, with the lid only partially covering it. Add any additional seasoning necessary, then serve over pasta.

Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake

This is another wonderful Nigella Lawson chocolate cake recipe – this one’s from the “Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame” chapter in Feast. It’s a dense, yet surprisingly light, loaf cake – not too light, however, and it goes wonderfully with cream. It’s a sweet chocolate cake, and you could make it sweeter by using milk, or perhaps even white, chocolate chips instead of dark. It’s an extremely simple recipe – it’s designed to be made in a blender, although I beat it together by hand. Once it’s cooked, you pour over some chocolate syrup, and then when cold, grate over some chocolate sprinkles for a rather elegant loaf cake. I served it for morning tea, and it was extremely popular – afternoon tea might be more appropriate though. As with most Nigella recipes, it’s rather rich.

200g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
50g cocoa
275g caster sugar
175g butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
80ml sour cream
125ml boiling water
175g chocolate chips

for the syrup:
1 tsp cocoa
125ml water
100g caster sugar
25g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line a loaf tin (21 x 11cm and 7.5cm deep).

Put the flour, bicarb, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream into a food processor, and blitzs until it’s a smooth, satiny brown batter. Process again while pouring the boiling water slowly into the mixture. Turn off the processor, and stir in the chocolate chips.

(If you’re not using a food process, cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs, followed by the dry ingredients, then the sour cream and vanilla, then beat in the water.)

Pour the batter into the loaf tin, and bake for an hour. When ready, the loaf will be risen and split down the middle, and a skewer should come out fairly clean.

Just before the cake comes out of the oven, put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan, and boil for five minutes. What you want is a reduced liquid, a syrup.

When you’ve taken the cake out of the oven, pierce a few times with a skewer, and pour the syrup as evenly as possible over the cake. Let the cake become completely cold, then slip it out of its tin, removing the paper, and place it on your serving plate. Get your chocolate, and slice thin slivers off the block with a heavy knife, until you’ve got enough to cover the top of the cake. If required, spoon a little extra syrup so that the chocolate will stick to the surface.

And there you have it. Delicious in thick slices with cream or yoghurt.

Chocolate Guinness Cake

This is a Nigella Lawson recipe, from Feast. I was a bit hesitant about it – I don’t like beer, and I think Guinness is quite revolting. And beer and chocolate just sounds wrong. But the boyfriend often has Guinness in the fridge, so I stole one to try this cake. (It was the last one too, much to his irritation.) Nigella says that the cake’s “magnificent in its damp blackness” with a “resonant, ferrous tang”. After looking up “ferrous” (which means ‘of or pertaining to iron’, if you’re similarly ignorant), I have to agree. I’m going to relate Nigella’s cooking temperatures and times here and not what I did, because not only did I ended up cooking the cake in two tins, not having one large enough for the recipe. The icing imitates the foam on a pint of Guinness very successfully – I was very pleased with its looks, and even more so with the taste. A nicely adult chocolate cake.

250ml Guinness
250g butter (1 cup)
75g cocoa (a rounded 1/2 cup)
400g caster sugar (2 cups)
140ml sour cream (
I used plain yoghurt)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
275g plain flour (2 1/4 cups)
2 1/2 teaspoons bicarb soda

for the icing:
300g cream cheese (I used 250g which was plenty)
150g icing sugar (1 cup)
125ml cream

Preheat the oven to 180C, and grease and line (yes! lining is essential) a 23 centimetre springform tin.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, and add the sliced butter. Heat until the butter is melted, and remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla, then pour into the saucepan. Finally, beat in the flour and bicarb.

Pour the batter into the greased and lined tin, and bake for 45 mins to an hour. Leave to get completely cool in the tin, as it’s quite a damp cake.

For the icing, beat the icing sugar and cream cheese together. Add the cream, and beat again until it’s a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake until it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

This is a Nigella Lawson recipe from How To Be a Domestic Goddess, and I’ve been a little hesitant about trying it, because it looks so moist and sticky, and as Nigella and I have vastly different ovens, I worried about being able to tell if it was cooked. However, a craving for chocolate cake forced me to give it a try, and experimenting with oven temperatures turned out quite well. I think it was a little overcooked, as you can see from the paler brown near the crust, and I was lazy in adding the flour, which resulted in lumps. However, the result was still beautiful – a plain, loaf cake, as Nigella describes it, but beautifully moist, and considering the amount of sugar in it, not too sweet. It’s just beautifully rich and chocolatey, and perfect with icecream or cream, as a dessert (but also in thick slices for afternoon tea).

225g soft unsalted butter (1 cup and 3 tsp)
375g dark muscovado sugar (2 cups)
(I used brown)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
(I used essence)
100g best dark chocolate, melted
200g plain flour (1 3/4 cups)
1 tsp bicarb soda
250ml boiling water (1 cup)

Nigella suggests preheating the oven to 190C, baking the finished batter for 30 minutes, turning the oven down to 170C, and baking for another 15 minutes. I have a slow oven, so I preheated to 210C, baked for 40 minutes, turned down to 190C, and baked for 20 minutes. I think my temperatures were good, but I’d probably cut 5-10 minutes off the time.

Grease and completely line a loaf tin.

Cream the butter and sugar together. I stuffed up here in attempted to slightly soften my butter, and instead completely melted it. I think this made a bit of a difference to my batter, which may also effect the cooking time. Add the eggs and vanilla to the creamed butter and sugar, and beat well.

Fold in the slightly cooled chocolate, taking care to blend well but not overbeat. Add the bicarb to the flour, and add, alternately spoon by spoon with the boiling water, until you have a smooth and fairly liquid batter. Don’t be alarmed if the batter is very liquid, and you think it’ll never cook. It will. And really, take time in adding the flour – lumps are annoying.

Pour the batter into your lined loaf tin.

Bake according to Nigella’s instructions (30 minutes at 190C, 15 minutes at 170C), or mine (35 minutes at 210C, 15-20 minutes at 190C). The cake will still be a bit squidgy inside, so there should be a little mixture on a testing skewer.

Leave the cake for a couple of hours to cool completely inside the tin. It’s intended to sink in the middle, although mine didn’t, due to said overcooking. It’s still delicious with the overcooking, I just don’t think it’s quite what Nigella intended. Turn out, slice, and eat.


This is a recipe for utterly divine, dense, rich brownies. It’s a huge recipe, and I haven’t been brave enough to experiment with halving it. I’ve found people quite enjoy being pressed to eat brownies, so I haven’t minded having enormous amounts of them. The original cooking time in Nigella’s recipe (from her book How to Be a Domestic Goddess) didn’t work for me at all, which I think might be because she uses a fan forced oven, so I had to do a little experimenting. However, I think I’ve got it just about right.

375g (1 1/2 cups) soft butter
375 g dark chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tblsp vanilla extract
500g (3 cups) caster sugar
(I know, this seems insanely excessive. I’ve used 2 1/2 cups, and that’s fine. You could probably reduce it to 2)
225g (just under 2 cups – 1 7/8) plain flour
300g chopped walnuts
(I made up this weight with almonds and sultanas)

Preheat the oven to 180C (that’s Nigella’s suggestion for temperature – in my non-fan forced electric oven, I used 190C).

Grease and line a baking tin measuring approx. 33 by 23 by 5.5 cm.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large saucepan. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Measure the flour into another bowl.

When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool for a bit (I usually melt the chocolate mixture first, and then beating the eggs and measuring out the flour gives it time to cool). Beat the egg mixture into the chocolate, and then add the nuts and flour. Beat until smooth, and pour into the lined pan.

Bake for 25 minutes. (At 190, I baked it for 45 minutes, and then checked it every five minutes, until the top was crusty and fairly firm, but a skewer still came out with mixture on. They solidify and continue to cook as they cool).

A variation on the recipe – the 300g of walnuts is replaced with 170g of dried cranberries, and 130g of walnuts. The cranberries expand juicily into scrumptious red dots of fruit – very attractive.