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A rainy day dish

"The recipe is pretty simple, but not for the calorie-conscious" Australian Food Timeline

It's a miserable day and we have promised to go and watch our granddaughter play footy. Maybe, maybe not is all I can say. Even her mum says it's freezing there.

Also yesterday I said, in my oddments post, there was no recipe of the week. I had considered this one, but (a) thought it was too ordinary and (b) thought it was possibly worth a post of its own. And it is.

The recipe of the week - which I haven't made and probably won't either, is the one above from last month's Coles Magazine. It's called Sticky date and carrot pudding, but the recipe is not up on the net as yet, though you can download a pdf of the magazine.

A quick aside. Maybe the recipe of the week should have actually been this one - Cheesy cauliflower and leek tart from the same magazine, and which I did make. Mine, of course, did not look quite as magnificent as this one, but it wasn't far off, and it was really tasty and not too hard. A four star dish. Another quick aside - the two supermarket magazines - for me anyway - are differing in quality these days. Coles generally has at least one thing that you might be tempted by - last month it was four for me - whilst Woolworths has nothing. And nothing of interest to read as well. Probably just a temporary thing.

Back to sticky date pudding. Possibly my very favourite pudding and entirely appropriate for such a miserable day. I assumed that it was an old Victorian British thing. Mostly because it's sort of stodgy. But no. I have now read a few 'origin' articles, the best one being on the BBC's travel website from Mike Macheacheron. I'm right about the British, but way out on the timing and there is a Canadian element too.

So, in brief. Most people seem to think that it was invented by Francis Coulson who with his partner Brian Sack ran the Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel on Ullswater in England's Lake District. A truly beautiful spot as you can see. Alas currently the hotel is defunct, as the man, who bought it after the death of the owners, has gone into liquidation. Hopefully somebody else will buy it.

But back to that pudding. It's invention was in the early 1970s - not Victorian at all. But:

"the late and "legendary" chef once admitted to him that he'd adapted the idea from one Mrs Martin of Lancashire. Some years later, this good lady's son contacted [Simon] Hopkinson to tell him she'd been given the recipe by a Canadian friend, which makes sticky toffee pudding about as British as flipper pie" Felicity Cloake

The picture is supposedly a version served in the actual hotel.

And there's yet another Canadian connection in that during the war Francis Coulson's partner Brian Sack who had served in the war with Canadians had seen them dousing a Canadian pudding with maple syrup. That pudding is called Pouding chômeur and was born in the Depression when a type of bread pudding had indeed been doused with maple syrup. On the left the real thing and on the right a tizzied-up iteration from Matt Preston whose version shows the connection with sticky date pudding I guess - but much paler.

Before leaving the origins story I should mention that there is another hotel laying claim in the 1960s and also a version published in 1907. Who knows. They all come from around the same area of Britain though, which makes sense because the principal ingredients - the dates and the brown sugar were imported from the West Indies through north-eastern ports such as Whitehaven also in the Lake District.

I have never been to the Lake District. Well once upon a time, before we left England to come to Australia, David and I decided to holiday in Scotland. We drove there in our minivan - our first car and planned to sleep in it. Our first night was on the edge of the Lake District and the attempt at sleeping in the van - which required us to take almost everything out and leave it under the car - was uncomfortable and cold. Indeed the entire holiday was uncomfortable and cold, even though we thereafter resorted to a tent. So cold that we cut the holiday short and returned to London. So cold - in the middle of summer. And I believe the Lake District is cold and, moreover wet most of the time. So a sticky date pudding would be a really good idea.

In Australia we call it sticky date pudding, in Britain it is called sticky toffee pudding. I suspect many Australians might think it's actually an Australian dish. New Zealanders too. I gather it reached peak popularity in the 80s but honestly, has it ever gone away? I know I'm somebody who will always pick it if I see it on a menu and it never fails to please. Well I might not pick it in the middle of summer. Maybe I should make some little ones tonight. It is pretty freezing.

Of course there are endless recipes out there, so I have picked two 'traditional' ones, and then a few other variations, ranging from minor changes to more radical. Not that anyone really strays all that far. When you are on to a good thing stick to it. Oops - sorry about that unintended pun.

Ok - traditional, from Australia's own top-selling cookbook author and foodie blog writer (Recipe Tin Eats) - the Japanese heritage Nagi Maehashi - and the very English Nigella Lawson. Nagi gives these tips about the sticky bit:

"as soon as the pudding comes out of the oven, poke lots of holes using a skewer (I find this strangely satisfying but let’s not read too much into this), then pour over some hot butterscotch sauce. This makes the pudding intensely moist as well as staining the sponge to give it that signature dark brown colour, rather than being a pale golden colour which many sticky toffee pudding recipes are." Nagi Maehashi

Then there are those who like to add nuts and vary the shape - Sticky date pudding with nuts/Australian Women's Weekly; Little sticky toffee puddings with pecan toffee sauce/Delia Smith; and Sticky date, pecan and honey fingers/Belinda Jefferey

As I said, nobody really strays too far from the original idea, but there are those who try different fruits - prunes, figs, apples - those that add things like carrots - in my inspiration cake, or pumpkin from Jamie Oliver, and I imagine there might be a few with banana somewhere. I guess the most 'far out' was a baked alaska version, though I did see a tahini version somewhere. So here are three of those more different takes on the theme: Mini sticky pudding baked alaska from Donal Skehan on SBS; Sticky date pudding (with prunes and apple butter) also on the SBS website from Regula Ysewijn and Sticky fig pudding with salted caramel and coconut topping from Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

I'm making pizza for dinner tonight - also comfort food - which we shall eat with a bottle of red wine, so maybe I'll have a look at the Recipe Tin Eats version and see if it's a potential treat. Nothing too complicated but soul warming is what I'm looking for. To hell with the calorie count.

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