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.


Cauliflower with saffron, raisins and pinenuts


As a family we have given up TV for Lent. This is very hard but has resulted in us being slightly more productive in the evenings and doing wholesome family things like playing board games.

I have also become a vegetarian for Lent. This is not really a trial for me but it may be hard for my husband. I do the lion’s share of the cooking and so he is now forced to eat less meat too. I’ve suggested that he cooks up a load of sausages on a Monday and eats all my vegetarian creations with ‘a sausage on the side’.

My 8 year old daughter, who is already a vegetarian, and who wanted to take things one step further, has renounced her bed for Lent and is currently sleeping on the floor!

I’m not sure what all this says about a family who are not even religious. Perhaps it shows that we like a challenge. Or maybe it’s a sign of guilt and a cathartic need for self punishment!

Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve been experimenting more with vegetables. I had been hoping to bring you an exciting Ottolenghi recipe from his vegetarian bible ‘Plenty’, but the one I tried this week irritatingly didn’t work even though I followed the steps with precision.

So instead here’s a very nice recipe from a comical (and not very good) book – Gregg Wallace’s ‘veg – the greengrocer’s cookbook’. It remains on my book shelf only because it’s signed by the man himself who wishes me ‘Good Kitchen Times’.


This isn’t even his own recipe but one nicked from the ‘Moro cookbook’.

‘Cauli from the Sam Clarks’

Serves 2 as a main course (with leftovers for lunch)

  • 1 small cauliflower broken into tiny florets
  • 50 strands of saffron (life is too short to count saffron strands so I estimate that this is a good pinch)
  • 75g of raisins
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 5 tablespoons of pinenuts, lightly toasted (this is a lot so use less if you wish – pinenuts are very expensive)
  • Salt and white pepper to season

Pour 4 tablespoons of boiling water over the saffron in a bowl.

In another bowl soak the raisins in warm water (with the water just covering the raisins).

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the cauliflower florets for 1 minute. Drain and rinse the florets in cold water, then drain again.

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onions for 15 minutes until soft and golden. Remove them from the pan leaving a little oil behind.

Turn the heat in the frying pan up to hot and add the cauliflower. Fry until there is some colour on the florets (about 3 minutes). Then add the onion, saffron water, pine nuts.

Drain the raisins and add those too. Stir fry for 3 minutes until the water has evaporated and season well with white pepper and salt.

Best served warm (rather than piping hot) which seems to enhance the flavours).

Any leftovers taste fantastic mixed with a little cous cous and eaten cold for lunch.

Caramelised brown butter rice krispie treats


Having eaten half our body weight in pancakes, we made a family pact to give up chocolate for Lent. Not for religious reasons (we are not believers) but just for the challenge.

My six year old daughter Elizabeth still feels guilty about her failed attempt last year when she gave in just two days before Easter for a Mister Donut Chocolate French Cruller. I think she’ll stay strong this time. I’m not so sure about Eddie – he’s only four and I don’t think he’s mastered the art of will power yet.

The children’s school has just finished ‘Healthy Eating Week’ and giving up chocolate ought to fit smugly alongside this. The thing is I’ve been so bombarded with patronising Change4Life propaganda that it’s made me want to rebel and feed my kids sugar.

So I was looking through my ‘recipes to try’ bookmarks for chocolate-free, sugary snacks and these blonde rice krispie treats seemed perfect. They are super trashy with just three ingredients (two highly processed and sugary, one ultra fattening) but you do have to brown some butter which may elevate them into the realms of culinary sophistication.

Don’t expect the soft, gooey texture of the chocolate version here, these have a dry and chewy texture which I was a bit unsure about at first. So I just had to have another one to check. By the fifth I’d decided they were absolutely delicious (but I also felt a bit sick and had to skip lunch).

My children, as you can imagine, went mad for them.

Caramelised brown butter rice krispie treats

(by Julia Moskin for NYT Cooking, written in my own words and converted into grams)

Makes 30 – 50

  • 230g of salted butter, or unsalted butter plus 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 300g of marshmallows
  • 240g of Rice Krispies

Line a 24cm by 34cm baking tray (or one with a similar area) with baking parchment and grease with butter.

In a very large pan melt the butter over a medium heat. Then stir the butter and cook until it foams, goes clear and then turns light brown. This takes about 3 minutes and you know it’s done when it starts to smell lovely and nutty (“melting butter is the nicest smell in the whole world” declares my daughter Elizabeth, and I agree).

Now stir in the marshmallows. At first they will look like chewing gum swimming in a pool of grease (not very appetising) but keep stirring and they will eventually amalgamate. You need to cook the mixture for about 3 – 5 minutes, stirring all the time, until it turns a fudgy pale brown colour.

Remove the pan from the heat and empty in the Rice Krispies. Stir well with a silicone spatula. Scrape everything into the baking tray and use your hands to press it all down as evenly as possible.

Leave to cool (there is no need to refrigerate) and then, with a sharp knife, cut into squares or bars as neatly as you can.

no chocolate rice krispie treats with kids