A few weeks ago, the people behind Chew On That asked me one of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked in my life, and this is no overstatement. The question left me stumped. The question was “what would your last supper be?”
I can see some of you already going into blank stares, lost in thought about which gastronomic fare you would bookend your life with. Sounds rather morose I know, but don’t let me interrupt that pensive state you are already in and let me ask you this same question. When faced with the last supper of your life, what would you get the chef to cook up? What would be the perfect culinary ending to your life? What after tastes do you want lingering on your tongue as you enter the after life?
I had to tell the ever so patient people at Chew On That, that I needed some time to think about it, and even when presented with the deadline, I gave them the first thing that came off the top of my head. The thing is, my last supper was far from my mind, it’s not something one thinks about while day dreaming or even in their everyday thought. It’s not something I have even planned and want to plan, but nonetheless the question is a good one.
My answer was quite simple and succinct- my dad’s chicken curry with rice and a sticky date pudding for dessert. You might be thinking, is that all? I thought she was going to come up with something more meaningful and esoteric. But truth be known there is no overly existential and enigmatic reason for choosing what I did. I just drew from the imaginary inventory of meals and tried to pick out which one I would never tire of. Curry is always a hearty classic for me, and with some warm, moist rice, it’s the perfect overture into eternity and the pudding would just cap off what a great life it has been.
The sticky date pudding is an Australian favourite; you can find it on the menu at cafes, bistros and fine dining establishments alike with many variations and meanderings. But the classic pud with sauce is how I like it best, and sweet is the only way to go of course. I have been looking for a “go-to” sticky date pudding recipe for some time now and it is only recently that I have found one that I am affixed to. It’s Neil Perry’s recipe from his cookbook Good Food, and is quite simple to make.
Perry states that, “this is everything you expect and more. Incredibly rich and full on- but if you can handle it, you will be hooked forever.” He couldn’t have been more right. The flavour is intense; obviously it tastes of dates, which obviously means that it’s sweet, really sweet, probably even too sweet. But if you look beyond all that saccharine overkill, there is a real depth of flavour that is sometimes missing from most sticky puds.
When I am cooking for others though, I do reduce the sugar by about 50-75g. Also, Perry doesn’t mention anything about it on the recipe, but I also puree the dates using a hand blender, just so that the end result turns out a smooth and consistent crumb. You can bake the puddings in individual moulds if you are using them for a dinner party so the all you need to do is unmould them and pour the sauce over. Also he suggests reheating them in the oven if need be, but I found zapping them in the microwave for a few seconds is just as effective.
So if you do decide to try this pudding, beware it sweetness. It very well might become your last meal.
Neil Perry’s Sticky Toffee Pudding
from his cookbook Good Food
10 fresh dates, about 230g, pitted and chopped
1 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)
100g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
150g self-raising flour, sifted
thick (double/heavy) cream
500ml thick (double/heavy) cream
110g Demerara sugar
2 tbsp treacle or molasses
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Grease a 27 x 15 x 6cm deep loaf (bar) tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Place the dates and 250ml water into a pan and bring to the boil over medium heat.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the bicarb soda- the mixture will begin to bubble up. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
Fold the flour and the date mixture alternatively into the butter mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and bake for 50 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
To make the sauce, combine the cream, sugar and treacle in a small pan and stir constantly over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly.
To serve, turn the warm pudding out onto a platter and drizzle with half the sauce.
Cut the pudding into thick slices or squares and serve with the remaining sauce and thick cream.
If the pudding needs to be reheated, cover it with foil and place it in a 150°C oven for 30 minutes, or until heated through.