Explosive food: Perfect for bonfire night

THE weather and darkening afternoons tell of the swift advance of winter’s veil, write Emma Crowhurst.

Bonfire night is upon us and if you haven’t already been to a firework display, there will soon be that hot-metal and gunpowder smell in the air and spent rockets amongst the dead leaves.

Temperatures have taken a dip and the woolly jumpers come out. No diet can hold off the desire for comfort food, warming stews, soups, hot pots and casseroles. I have already been eating soup so thick it can stand a spoon.

For the 5th of November this year we are having a dessert that is the ultimate nursery comfort pudding.

Sticky toffee pudding has a colourful history: the Udny Arms in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, claims to be the “spiritual home” of the pudding after it was first served there in the late 1960s, inspired by an antique local cookbook. But the Sharrow Bay Restaurant on Lake Ullswater also lays claim to being sticky toffee pudding’s home, for it has been served there since the 1960s. On the menu at Sharrow Bay it is heralded as “Francis Coulson’s Famous and Original Icky Sticky Toffee Sponge” and, indeed, is more sponge-like and lighter than the dense, rich puddings we are more familiar with.

The very British sticky toffee pudding was originally a steamed pudding. Made with dates, or sometimes prunes, it is basically a sponge cake mix enriched with dried or fresh fruit.

It is having something of a renaissance. When it is made well, and served with plenty of luscious toffee sauce and cr�me fraiche or ice cream, it really is hard to beat.

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Fresh dates are delicious, but dried work well in my recipe, which soaks the dates in half a pint of hot tea! You can use posh tea or builders’ blend; just make sure the dates are stoned. I often leave it overnight, ready to whizz for the recipe. Make the pudding in well-buttered and lined timbales or little cups for individual servings, or in a cake or loaf tin to be cut to serve.

The puds freeze really well and are always a good stand-by to have in the freezer for the festive season. The sauce also will freeze; so make a double batch of both sauce and pudding. It is the re-heating that so many get wrong. To overdo it in a microwave oven will make the pudding tough and dry. The best way to re-heat is to wrap it in foil in a warming oven, or, if you must microwave, just take care and give short bursts of heat until it feels just above warm. Your sauce can be hotter, but use caution as hot toffee burns the mouth.

My children have a plan to serve our sticky toffee pudding with matchmakers all around to resemble a bonfire, complete with a mini Guy Fawkes on top to be burnt! (Don’t ask.)

The picture today is courtesy of Edward Halls at The Rose and Crown, Great Horkesley. The dish is as good as any I’ve tasted!

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