Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Let me be quite clear. This recipe is wrong. It’s not politically correct. It’s just plain not right. You shouldn’t be eating it. It’s not good for you. It’ll kill you, eventually.

OK? Consider yourself warned.

Cumbria is a magical part of England. Around the Lake District you will find many places to thrill and inspire, to awe and delight. It’s like a huge LG washing machine/fridge special offer out there. If you do find yourself in the area, a pilgrimage to Miller Howe is obviously something for the diary – but take my word for it and go and eat at the Drunken Duck at Ambleside. It remains one of my most memorable, stunning, breathtakingly awe-inspiringly wonderful and utterly glorious eating experiences. I might be underselling it.

When you’re exploring the area in the cool and fog of winter, if you’re lucky you’ll find the unprepossessing village of Cartmel. And then, like us, you’ll go “Bloody hell! That’s the sticky toffee pudding shop from Rick Stein’s Food Heroes programme!!!”

And you will buy an armful of puddings from them. And then you will eat them. And you will be sore amazed.

If you’re a bit of an obsessive, you will then start to look up recipes, including the great M. Stein’s. And you will add them together and throw your own little twists and idiosyncrasies. Following which, you will post them on the Internet so that cardiologists everywhere will still be able to afford their golf club memberships...


  • 150g dates, stoned and finely chopped
  • 250ml water
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g soft butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder

Toffee sauce
  • 250ml double cream
  • 200g muscovado sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 2 tbsp date syrup (dibs)
To serve
  • 200ml whipped cream
  • 1 tbsp brandy
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Butter a bread tin and line it with greaseproof paper. Crank the oven up to GM4/180C/350F. Roll your sleeves up.

Add the chopped dates, water, vanilla and bicarbonate together in a pan and boil them. Take the mixture off the heat and put it to one side.

Cream the butter and sugar in a roomy bowl, beating it until it pales. Beat one of the eggs with a fork in a small bowl and add this, slowly and beating constantly, to the creamed sugar. There’s a danger of curdling here, so do take care and take it nice and slow. Now throw in a tablespoon of the flour and mix it in well before adding a second pre-beaten egg. Sift the rest of the flour with the baking powder and then add these to the egg mixture, folding it as gently as you can, thinking beautiful thoughts about bunny rabbits and laughing children. I find that thoughts of Kate Bush also are a good thing at this stage, but chaque a son goute, habibi as we say in Beirut and parts of Al Wahda Street.

Reheat the date and water mixture, then add it to the mix in the bowl and mix it in with a wooden spoon. Pour the whole bally lot into the bread tin and bake for a good 35-40 minutes, testing it with a bamboo skewer in the middle to ensure that it has set well. If the skewer comes out clean, you’re good. By all means, give it an extra five minutes to be sure. Leave the pudding to cool a little, then turn it out onto a plate.

Whip the cream, brandy and vanilla essence until it’s all stiffened up and chuck it into the fridge.
For the toffee sauce, heat the cream, sugar, date syrup and butter together in a pan until it all melts up. Reserve this.

When you’re almost ready to serve the pudding, slice it in nice, thick, generous wodges and put the slices to heat in a low oven, together with the serving plates. Re-heat the sauce then pour this over each slice, adding a goodly dollop of cream mixture and an artistic twizzle of date syrup.

Now go and see a reputable cardiologist and say "Hi, I'd like an ECG." Then you can't blame us for any collateral damage...

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