Leafing through my signed copy of Simply Nigella, it caught my eye: the Date and Marmalade Christmas Cake that tastes of a fine Christmas pudding, apparently, that Quakers used to say was “The invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon.” Obviously, that sounded to me like a challenge.

So today, dear Reader, I made it. A strange confection, gluten free, dairy free, with a base of fruit and nuts, with coconut oil and eggs. Naturally, I somehow did not have the requisite 20cm Springform tin, though I could have sworn I had one a few days ago, so I improvised with one of those parchment liners from Lakeland that I happened to have in the cupboard. (All my baking tins are in a cupboard in the utility room as even my new kitchen has no space for them. Nigella, apparently, has a whole wardrobe dedicated to baking tins, for the same reason.)

It seems to have turned out OK though I don’t think anyone will be eating it until at least Christmas Day afternoon, so I’ll have to report back. The idea of using coconut oil has intrigued me, though. In India it’s been used since the beginning of time as a skin lotion and hair conditioner, and my mother used it on her own long hair. I remember the bottles of solidified oil warming up to melt on the radiator behind the telephone table in the hall at home. I hated the stuff because I didn’t want to reek of it. How funny, then, that it’s become such a fashionable superfood now.

I have vegetarian guests over Christmas and one of my tasks over the next few days is to make mince pies – I never buy them. I use a combination of butter and white fat for the shortcrust pastry but I’m not happy about using hydrogenated vegetable oil so recently I’ve used lard. Which is, of course, not acceptable for vegetarians.

So I wondered whether I could substitute white fat for coconut oil. People like @VeganNeil, who should know, have pointed me in the direction of sites that use coconut oil for pastry crusts so I think I might well give them a go to satisfy my curiosity if nothing else. I’ll report back when I do.


And another day, another batch of brownies. This time, after many, many years, I finally used the correct sized pan. I added 8 minutes to the woefully inadequate 25 minute cooking time, let them cool completely and they were STILL runny in the centre and had to be saved by microwaving them. I wonder if my brownies will ever turn out properly.