Gluten free recipe

Nigella’s dairy free olive oil chocolate cake


These are the things I haven’t given up for Lent.

Cake, coffee and a good book.

How can I not be happy with those marvellous things still in my life?

For me Nigella is the queen of cakes – even better than Mary or Delia – and this dairy free chocolate one is delicious and very simple to make.

There are a few members of my family who don’t eat dairy so this is a useful recipe to have in my ever expanding collection of chocolate cakes (this is the fifth one on this blog and that doesn’t even include chocolate brownies, muffins and fondants!).


Nigella’s dairy free olive oil chocolate cake

Makes a big cake which cuts into 12 large slices

  • 150ml of regular olive oil, plus a little to grease the tin
  • 50g of cocoa powder
  • 125ml of boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 125g of plain flour (or, if you want a gluten free cake, use 150g of ground almonds instead, although this will result in a heavier cake best served warm with cream)
  • ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 200g of caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Line a 23cm diametre spring form tin with baking parchment and grease lightly with olive oil.

Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl or jug and stir in the boiling water until well combined and without lumps. Add the vanilla extract and leave to cool a little.

In another bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and stir to combine.

In a large bowl add the eggs, olive oil and sugar and whisk with an electric hand whisk on a high speed for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Nigella uses a free standing mixer with a paddle attachment but I don’t have one of these.

Add the cocoa mixture and mix briefly on a low speed until just incorporated.

Then add the flour and mix on low again until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until the cake is just set. Mine was perfect after 40.

Let the cake cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then turn out and leave to cool. Or, eat warm with cream or ice cream.

This cake keeps well but if my family is anything to go by it won’t last more than a day or so.


Rich chocolate cake


About two years ago my husband made his very first cake. It was this ‘rich chocolate cake’ and it got such a great reception that he hasn’t bothered to try any others since. Whenever he makes a cake (which is not often) it is always this one. It blew Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness cake completely out of the water and my children now hail it as the ‘best cake in the world ever’. This is slightly annoying (since I bake lots of different cakes, all the time) but I have to admit that it is very delicious (hence the reason for this post) and I’m not usually a fan of chocolate cake.

This recipe doesn’t contain flour, so providing you use gluten free chocolate you can make it for your gluten free/coeliac friends. And if you don’t like almonds (like me) don’t worry – the rich chocolate completely disguises any almond flavour.

It’s not the easiest cake to make as there are quite a few processes involved (note how many times I use the words ‘carefully’ and ‘gently’ below). However, if (like my husband) you only bake cakes two or three times a year, you might as well go to a bit of effort.

It’s also not a showstopper lookswise. Don’t bake this if you want to make a grand cake entrance and wow your friends. It does however have a depth and richness on tasting that will quietly impress – rather like my husband really!

Rich Chocolate Cake – from the amazing Peyton and Byrne book – ‘British Baking’*

*I saw this in a charity shop recently and couldn’t believe that anyone would give such a brilliant book away.

  • 160g of good quality dark chocolate broken into small pieces
  • 160g of cold butter, cut into small cubes (about 1cm squared)
  • A pinch of sea salt (not necessary if you use salted butter)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 120g of caster sugar
  • 160g of ground almonds

Set your oven to 180oC.

Butter and line a 23 cm diameter cake tin with baking parchment.

NOTE: I recently used a 20 cm square cake tin instead. This produced a slightly thicker cake which I liked much better. It needed 5 minutes longer in the oven however (30 minutes total). ZS 25/09/16

Put the chocolate (and salt if using) in a bowl and melt over a pan of barely simmering water. Turn off the heat but keep the bowl over the pan and tip in the cubes of butter. Let the mixture sit until the butter starts to melt, then give it a quick stir and leave it for another few minutes.

Meanwhile, in another scrupulously clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks with a whisk. Then add the caster sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. An electric whisk makes this much easier.

Stir the chocolate mixture until all the butter has melted and whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Then fold in the egg white mixture as carefully and gently as you can.

Now lightly fold in the ground almonds being careful not to knock the air out of the mixture. It will have the texture of shaving foam at this point.

Pour into the tin and level off carefully with the back of a spoon or a palette knife. It will not spread and rise very much so it is worthwhile taking your time to do this carefully.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out and serving.

This is best eaten as fresh as possible and is amazing served slightly warm with a small scoop of mascarpone. If you can’t eat it on the day then cut the cake into slices and blast in the microwave for a few seconds before serving.

Desks 2 - edited

Afternoon coffee (mid-century style) in the Marvellous Furniture shop

Brisket Madras with red lentil dosa

madras brisket with dosa

I’m extremely lucky to have some brilliant butchers close by and my favourite* has just had a refit. They’ve moved their butcher’s block into the centre of the shop which is a stroke of genius from a business point of view. Last week I didn’t go in meaning to buy a giant piece of brisket but when I saw it beautifully rolled on the slab next to a sharp knife and a smiley butcher ready to cut it to any size I wanted, I just couldn’t resist.

I then got home and tried to work out what on earth to do with it. In the end I remembered a delicious beef Madras curry that my husband had once cooked for a dinner party and decided to use those flavours with the brisket. It worked really well and my whole family, especially the children, loved it.

To go with the curried brisket I dug out an ancient recipe for red lentil dosa from my file of cut outs. I’ve had it so long that I could only just make out the faded type. Dosa are a type of Indian pancake made from fermented rice and lentils. They don’t contain any flour and so are perfect for anyone with a gluten or wheat allergy.

*Coates Traditional Butchers, Bramcote Lane, Wollaton

Brisket Madras

  • About 2kg of unrolled beef brisket

Spice paste

  • 20g of ginger, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 25g of ground coriander
  • 6 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • ½ a teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (or more if you like it hot)
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar


  • 1/2 a tablespoon of ghee or butter
  • 2 onions roughly chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A knorr beef stock pot (or similar stock)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • Water to cover

Trim the excess fat from the piece of beef brisket and cut the string to unroll it if you’ve bought it rolled from the butchers.

Place all the ingredients for the spice paste into a small bowl and mix until smooth. Spread the spice paste all over the brisket, cover and leave to marinade in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 140oC fan.

Take a heavy casserole dish with a lid, add the ghee/butter and heat to a medium high heat. Sear the brisket for a couple of minutes on each side. Throw in the sauce ingredients, add enough water to cover the meat and bring the liquid in the pan to the boil. Cover with a disc of baking paper (touching the surface of the meat and liquid) put the lid on and cook in the oven for 5-6 hours until the meat is tender.

Remove the pan from the oven, but leave it covered with the meat inside for a good 30 minutes. Remove the beef from the pan and shred, removing any big lumps of fat. Add the beef back to the pan and give it a good stir to coat with the curry sauce.

You can serve the brisket warm or cold.

NOTE: This does make an enormous amount and fed our family of four generously for 4 meals. The first night we had it wrapped in a red lentil dosa (see recipe below). There were two meals with rice and we also ate it in home-made baguettes (my husband’s idea – a bit weird but delicious).

Red Lentil Dosas

Makes 8-12 dosa (I made 8 that were 22cm wide but if you use a smaller pan you will obviously make more)

  • 300g of rice
  • 100g of red lentils
  • 500ml of warm water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 4 tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander
  • Oil for frying

Place the rice, lentils and water in a bowl and leave to soak for 8 hours.

Pour the whole mixture into a food processor and blend until you have a smooth batter. Pour into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to ferment for 24 hours at room temperature.

When you are ready to cook, stir the salt, turmeric and coriander into the batter.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium high heat and smear with a little oil. Add a ladle full of batter and smear around with the back of a spoon to fill the pan. Cook on one side for a couple of minutes until set. Drizzle a little more oil around the edges, then flip over and cook on the other side for about one minute.

Keep the cooked dosa warm in a low oven, wrapped in a damp tea towel whilst you cook the others. Serve warm.

NOTE: These are lovely filled with the curried brisket (recipe above) but they also go well with others curries and make a nice alternative to rice.

dosa cooking

Frying the dosa