Makes 900g loaf

Zest and juice of 1 orange

85g stoned dates, chopped

225g unsalted butter

225g soft brown sugar

225g golden syrup

340g plain flour

1tsp mixed spice

55g porridge oats

2 room temperature eggs, beaten

150ml milk

2tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 Put the orange juice in a small saucepan, add the chopped dates and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave the dates to soften in the hot juice for 10 minutes. Drain the dates, discarding the juice.

2 Heat the oven to gas mark 2 (150ºC). Grease a 900g (2lb) loaf tin and line the base with baking paper. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a saucepan, over a low heat.

3 Sift the flour and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl, and mix in the orange zest. Add the dates and oats, then make a well in the centre of the mixture. Pour in the melted butter mixture and the eggs.

4 Warm the milk in a saucepan to a temperature that you can comfortably stick a finger in. Take off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda and stir well. Pour into the well, stirring all the time. With a wooden spoon, gradually draw in the dry ingredients from the sides, and beat well until the mixture is smooth.

5 Pour the mixture into the loaf tin, and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool.

TIPS This is absolutely delicious eaten warm with a spoonful of creme fraîche on top, or cold with a spread of butter. Wrap well with clingfilm, store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, and it should keep moist and tasty for about a week.

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