I love dates. Not as much as I love chocolate, but in a scone or a moist loaf a date is hard to beat. So on Friday night, while my butter chicken bubbled and my freshly cracked hazelnuts roasted, I prepared the datey component of date and orange wholemeal loaf. All the while crossing every digit I possess in the hope my barren chooks would do me the honour of producing an extremely large and fresh egg so I could actually make the damn loaf. Just one.
If I had the guts my eggless chooks would have become the prime minister’ Kashmiri free range curry months ago when they stopped laying. But it’s the guts part I’m worried about. And the plucking. Every hen dies in debt, my grandfather used to say. My four moody mares have pretty much mortgaged their hen house several times over.
Nevertheless it was date night, so I boiled:
2 cups of chopped dates
1 roughly chopped orange (skin, pips, et al)
¼ cup of organic sugar
until they looked all pulpy and smelt divine.
Come Saturday afternoon I was still eggless so I conceded a batter-less pudding was in order. A sticky and datety one. I don’t mind winging when it comes to main meals but with baking I will take a bit of guidance. As my cookbook collection contains a couple of flash fish barbecue disciples and little else I typed in dates, orange, spelt and trawled the internet.
I’ve only just started using spelt flour thanks to my darling friend Bergendy leaving me a year’s supply, when she and her family took off like the Swiss Family Robinson on a never ending round the world adventure a few months back. If you’ve never tried it, you should, it has a nice smooth nutty flavour and is supposed to be better for you. Though probs not in this datey duff.
I found this Sticky Date Pudding and adapted it. Because I do like to experiment AND use those ingredients opened-a-year-ago-still-waiting-to-be-finished at the back of my cupboards. If I’d known sticky date pudding was just a rip off of my go-to choccy self – saucing favourite I would have made it yonks ago. I wasn’t sure about Bojon’s brewed coffee sauce; I pondered for quite a while whether I’d try a chocolate one but in the end invented my own vanilla and palm sugar glaze. Result: damn fine and sticky.
For Sticky Date Pudding you will need to:
Mix together in a large bowl
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour (or plain if you don’t have)
½ cup organic sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons melted flour
1 cup of above date concoction (minus the orange bits, or just chopped dates) mix into batter and spread evenly into your baking dish.
Meanwhile heat in a pot until just boiling:
1 ½ cups water
2 discs of palm sugar (relics from a Xmas ham glaze)
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons of real vanilla essence (one with lots of vanilla seeds in it)
Then simply pour this over the batter mix and bake for 30-40 mins in a moderate oven and voila. Out she comes as pretty as the picture above. When I offered to plate-up my pud I discovered I was the only one who REALLY liked dates. Damn.
I had my first serving swimming in a pool of runny cream. And my second.
The next day, daughter 14 (extremely close to 15) made a batch of date scones with the remaining date mixture.
And the following day I heard one date-hater recommending my pud to another family member.