In a ceramic or glass bowl, place the sugar, dates and water. Microwave until brought to the boil (this will depend on the make of your microwave), but 2-3 minutes is "normal". Set this aside to cool. While cooling grease and line your loaf tin and turn on your oven to 180oC.
Beat your egg in a separate bowl (a large one).
Add the cooled mixture and vanilla to the egg then add the sifted flour and spices. Add the nuts here if you are using them and mix well.
Place in your prepared loaf tin and bake for 30 -35 minutes (or until cooked when tested with a skewer).
Cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes, turn onto a wire rack. Best served warm with lashings of butter.