It's finally that time of the year. Misty mornings, a little less of the sun and an excuse to have all the hot chocolate you want, what's not to like about winter? Given the fact it's gone before you know it, I love making the most of this weather in the UAE. If it's winter, it also means it's time to clean up the sooted grills and plan a barbecue.
In Jumeirah at my parents place, we grill outside in the open garden. In Abu Dhabi at my in-laws place, we kick it up a notch. We do a rooftop barbecue. The lawn is home to Mummy's vegetable garden which has begun bearing produce. Besides, there is a tall bougainvillea and a bushy henna tree which means there's not enough ventilation. And so, we all brave climbing up and own three flights of stairs in our villa and enjoy grilling on the rooftop with a beautiful view of the city.
This time, we hosted my family for a barbecue dinner. Parents, sibling and his friends visiting from the US, uncle, aunt and cousins plus children maketh 21 adults and 5 children. The more, the merrier is what we believe.
Customarily, the large family get-togethers means I'm making dessert. And I love doing it. I have three cousins who sing praises at me if there's chocolate in the recipe. My gorgeous nieces make their way through two or three cupcakes licking off only the frosting and handover the cakes to my sister who is more than happy. The plan is to bake a few batches of cupcakes for the siblings and the children and an additional 'adult' pudding. I say adult because apart from my beloved Vappa, none of the elders like chocolate in their dessert. They usually prefer a traditional Kerala Payasam, almost always jaggery based which is something the younger ones including my husband don't fancy much.
Ever since I really started cooking, I've been searching far and wide for a dessert which everyone loves to eat. I had tremendous success with a tiramisu recently. I didn't want to make the tiramisu again. 4 days before D-Day I leaf through my cookbooks and browse through all my bookmarks on internet. After an hour, I found it. Jamie Olivers' Sticky Toffee Pudding. How could it go wrong? The reason I loved this recipe so much is because of one ingredient - fresh dates.
Living in the UAE means you're spoilt for choice when it comes to this fruit with choices ranging from dried dates to stuffed with orange peel, almond, take your pick. This recipe calls for Medjool dates which is a large and succulent variety. I used dates from the supermarket that matched the descripton. True to Jamie's style, this is a hassle-free preparation without compromising on flavor.
I made this pudding with double the quantity. This means you have to leave the pudding a little longer in the oven than the required 30 minutes. The key is to ensure that the pudding is cooked right through without burning the edges of the pudding. You're looking for a fairly deep brown. I do think it's key to make the toffee sauce right before serving, which is not a pain because it's ready before you know it.
And there you have it. Warm toffee trickling through moist pudding. I've never liked toffee and this recipe makes me want to pull off a Nigella-esque experience with caramel.
We had a great evening which went on past the tiny tots bedtime. The weather was cool throughout the night. With so many adults, there were quite a few suggestions on how to get the BBQ started, whether there was enough coal, the heat required for a good char and a lot more. At one point, it looked like we wouldn't get much done. Thankfully, it all ended well with smoky juicy meat to accompany an exhausting spread. The highlight was hands down the whole roasted baby lamb. And yes, the Pudding.
You're going to love very bite. I promise.
Wrapping up my first post satisfyingly.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Jamie Olivers' unabridged recipe
- 225g fresh dates, stoned
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 85g unsalted softened butter
- 170g caster sugar
- 2 large free-range eggs
- 170g self-raising flour
- ¼ teaspoon ground mixed spice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons Ovaltine
- 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
- 115g unsalted butter
- 115g light muscovado sugar
- 140ml double cream
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Put the dates in a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and cover with 200ml/7fl oz of boiling water. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes to soften, then drain.
- Whiz the dates in a food processor until you have a purée.
- Meanwhile, cream your butter and sugar until pale using a wooden spoon, and add the eggs, flour, mixed spice, cinnamon and Ovaltine.
- Mix together well, then fold in the yoghurt and your puréed dates.
- Pour into a buttered, ovenproof dish and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
- While the pudding is cooking, make the toffee sauce by putting the butter, sugar and cream in a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce has thickened and darkened in colour.
- To serve, spoon out the pudding at the table and pour over the toffee sauce.
I forgot to buy Ovaltine which I'm sure would have rendered a difference in the flavor of the pudding. The pudding tasted delicious without it, so feel free to omit it.