Hazelnut, Pear & Sticky Toffee Tart

So along with the apple picking and autumnal weather, it also seems to be pear season. I’m not the biggest fan of pears, especially cooked pears. I’m also not the biggest fan of nuts. Or dates for that matter.

Want to know the weird thing? I absolutely LOVED this tart.

Like, seriously, seriously, loved it.

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The soft, crumbly pastry was so sweet and tasty. The warm, moist pears were to die for. And the actual filling was just on another level; the flavours and texture were simply incredible. I will most definitely be baking this one again.

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Don’t even get me started on the toffee sauce. I have my own standard recipe that I use, and it’s always been simple and yummy. Yet the double cream in this recipe completely transforms it.

I love love love sticky toffee pudding (recipe can be found here) and it’s definitely a classic. But if you want something slightly different, a pastry pudding full of flavour and texture, this one’s your man. Or woman. Can a tart have a gender?! (gosh this is taking me back to Uni days and writing my dissertation on gender difference)

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So…. Go bake this…. Now…. Seriously…. Can you tell I’m now passionate about pears, nuts and dates?!

Good ol’ Paul Hollywood, thanks for this one!

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Hazelnut, Pear & Sticky Toffee Tart (serves 8)

                      For the pastry:                     

200g plain flour

2 tbsp icing sugar

100g unsalted butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp very cold water

For the filling:

150g stoned dates, roughly chopped

150ml milk

3 ripe pears

50g unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g ground almonds

2 eggs

100g light muscovado sugar

2 tbsp black treacle

75g shelled cobnuts or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

For the toffee sauce:

200g light muscovado sugar

50g unsalted butter

250ml double cream

  1. To make the pastry: mix the flour and icing sugar together in a bowl. Add the diced butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs
  2. Mix the egg with the lemon juice and water. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mix. Using one hand, work the liquid into the flour to bring the pastry together. If it seems too dry, add a splash more water. When the dough begins to stick together, gently knead it into a ball. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes
  3. For the filling: put the chopped dates and milk in a pan. Bring to the boil, and then set aside for 30 minutes to soak
  4. To make the toffee sauce: heat the sugar, butter and cream together in a pan over a low heat until melted and smooth, then bring to a simmer and let bubble for 5 minutes to thicken. Leave to cool
  5. Heat your oven to 180°C and have ready a 25cm loose-based fluted tart tin
  6. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line the tart tin. Prick the base with a fork. Peel, quarter and core the pears; slice each quarter in two. Arrange in a circular pattern in the tart case. Drizzle over about 3/4 of the toffee sauce and place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the filling
  7. Mash the date mixture to a coarse purée with a potato masher. Tip it into a bowl with the softened butter, vanilla, flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground almonds, eggs, sugar and treacle. Whisk together with an electric whisk until just combined. Stir in the chopped nuts
  8. Spoon the date and nut mixture over the pears in the pastry case, spreading it out evenly. Bake the tart on the hot baking tray for 40 minutes, until the filling is well risen and browned. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before removing from the tin
  9. Serve the tart warm, with clotted cream or ice cream and the rest of the toffee sauce.
  10. ENJOY!

When Life Gives You Lemons – Grab Tequila & Salt – Or Loads Of Eggs & Make a Tart

I’ve never made a tart before…. *shock*gasp*horror*

I know…. I think I’ve kinda been putting it off, cause I don’t really like them, and I know they can be tricky little creatures, or big creatures for that matter. I’ve always made jam tarts, very tiny, very easy, jam tarts, literally just with a blob of jam in the middle, no work involved really.

However a rare moment happened a few weeks ago. My Grandad and Dad came into the kitchen, placed a magazine in front of me, with a recipe for a lemon tart spread across two pages. My eyes immediately went to the corner where there was an alternative salted caramel chocolate tart…. Now that was my cup of tea!

But, alas, after much dispute, it was decided I was to make this tart, not for me, not with chocolate, and not with great happiness, but for Grandad and Dad.

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It was actually really simple to make, I just needed SO MANY EGGS! Apart from the slight horror of using up almost all of the eggs in my cupboard, I warmed to the idea of a challenge and something new. That’s what bakers do right?!

After lots of prep and waiting for things to cool and carefully swaying a tray full of tart into the oven (boy was that a challenge) I actually kinda maybe potentially made a pretty sweet pie tart thingy.

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I don’t really like lemon (much prefer orange), but it wasn’t too bad at all. The pastry could have been better, but I suppose that comes with experience, as well as the right amount of mixing and whisking with the filling. In fact I’m sure there are nicer and more fancy recipes out there for lemon tarts, but I liked the simplicity of this one (if I remember correctly, I believe it was a French recipe) and thought it was pretty good for innocent tart beginners like myself. Obviously I will be making a chocolate-y one soon enough….

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But I wanted to share, as my Grandad and Dad thoroughly enjoyed it, as did I with the rustic appearance (I like imperfect things!).

Hope you enjoy and have a fabulous weekend ❤

Rustic Lemon Tart (serves around 6-8)

For the sweet pastry:

120g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

75g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting

2 egg yolks

250g plain flour

2 tbsp water

For the lemon filling:

5 eggs

150g caster sugar

85ml lemon juice, around 3 lemons

2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest

150ml double cream

  1. To make the pastry: In a large bowl, cream the butter and icing sugar together, then beat in 2 of the egg yolks. Add the flour and rub the mixture with your fingers, creating a breadcrumb texture. Add the water (if you need it) and form a ball with the mixture. Knead the pastry on a lightly floured surface (try not to overwork the pastry otherwise it will be too hard – I knead for around 1 minute). Wrap in cling film and chill for around 30-60 minutes
  2. Making the lemon cream: In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and cream. Sieve and then add the zest. Place in the fridge to cool
  3. Take out the pastry and roll out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a circle, around 3mm thick. Here comes the tricky part! Roll the pastry over the rolling pin and unroll it over a (I used 24cm) loose-bottom tart tin. Gently tuck into the bottom edges of the tin so it fits nice and tightly. Cut off any excess (I wasn’t too bothered about a neat tart – hence the adjective rustic!). If you have any particularly loose or thin parts, use the excess pastry and press gently into rough areas to create a nice snug fit. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and refrigerate for 30-40 minutes
  4. Cooking the pastry: Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Now line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans, pushing them against the side. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and lift out both greaseproof paper and beans. Return the pastry to the oven and bake for a further 15-20 minutes
  5. Cooking the lemon cream: Turn the oven down to 150°C/ 275°F/Gas Mark 1. Pour the lemon mixture into your pastry base and carefully place it into the oven (CAREFULLY!). Bake for around 35-40 minutes, until just set. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least 30 minutes, then dredge icing sugar around the edge of the tart. Remove the tart from the tin and place on a serving plate. Enjoy!

A Perfect Soufflé Is No Piece Of Cake!

Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Soufflés

Mom and I have just finished an extremely satisfying bowl of Tortellini (filled with a bolognese mix) with a salad and sun-blushed tomato bread on the side…. YUM!

I feel so so satisfied right now and I desperately want to find time to make my own Tortellini one day. I’m thinking…. spinach, ricotta, tomatoes, pesto…. I could go on….

I feel so good, I decide to spontaneously make a batch of Soufflés.

I see Mom give a wry smile over the table, and off I go thinking WOW this recipe sounds so simple, I could do all this in under half an hour. I mean I’m pretty good at whipping up egg whites (with my Baked Alaska recipe) so it should be fine, right?

I did not do it in half an hour. In the back of my mind somewhere I think I knew I had no idea what on earth I was doing and I think I knew that I’d heard people talk about how hard it is to make the perfect Soufflé.

Of course I’d never made them before, so why not give them a go?!

I’m making this sound worse than it was, they were actually really really tasty… And the texture wasn’t too bad either…. All in all it wasn’t a bad first attempt at all!

I just wish I’d read some of these helpful tips beforehand:

– Carefully line the ramekins with soft butter, then sugar (or bread crumbs for savory souffles). Inadequately buttered ramekins will produce an uneven rise.

One-week-old eggs are best; very fresh egg whites have a high water content and are prone to graining.

– Fold the base and the egg whites carefully, making sure not to “break” the egg whites.

– Don’t overfill the ramekins. Stop just before the top.

Like me, if you haven’t made these before, give them a try, you might just become obsessed like me!

SO along with my bread making craze (check out my Farmhouse Loaf, Fougasse & French Stick) I now have accepted the challenge of mastering the soufflé. 

With a blob of ice cream, these warm gooey masterpieces are possibly the yummiest desserts of all time.

Watch out for more posts and fun ideas on the soufflé front.

Enjoy 🙂

Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Soufflés (makes around 6) 

50g dark chocolate (I used 70%)

2 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp instant coffee granules

4 tbsp caster sugar

150ml milk (I used lactose free)

2 eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees
  2. Put the chocolate into a pan with the cornflour, cocoa powder, coffee, 1 tbsp of sugar and the milk
  3. Warm gently to melt the chocolate and then increase the heat and stir until the mixture thickens (this takes around 5 minutes)
  4. Allow to cool a little, then stir in the egg yolks – cover with a damp cloth
  5. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually whisk in the remaining sugar until the mixture is stiff
  6. Stir in one-third of egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Then fold in the remaining whites
  7. Divide between your ramekins and place on a baking sheet.
  8. Bake for around 12 minutes until well risen

              

Granny’s Pear & Plum Cider Crumble

Now as we all know, it’s a big moment when I write about any dessert that involves fruit – but this is a huge one!

When I was younger, every time my Mom made a crumble I’d sigh in disappointment as I knew I wouldn’t be having pudding…. The only fruit I liked back then was melon and apple, and I particularly hated cooked apples. Anyway, there was no chocolate in the title, so why would I even try and taste it?!

Yet since my travelling expeditions, I have become way more adventurous with food. With funds being severely limited (basically we were broke) I was kind of forced to eat everything and anything we came across. I came to absolutely love tomatoes, I’m obsessed with courgettes, aubergines and mushrooms, I have around 4 oranges a day and munch on most types of nuts most days.

I also suffered from something called Cytomegalo Virus (a strain similar to Glandular Fever) and a long batch of tonsillitis, not to mention post-fatigue symptoms and iron transfusions intravenously! This for some reason really altered my taste buds – I’ve spoken to quite a few people who have suffered from similar things and they all found the same. Since I didn’t have any sort of appetite whatsoever, whenever I fancied something I had to eat it! For some reason this ended up usually being bananas and custard, rice pudding, frozen fruit and cereal.

So, with these two factors, I came out a new person in 2015!!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Mom’s crumble and force her to make it every other week as a treat. Quote the legend herself “I’ve been making this for years and no two crumble ever turn out the same – I cooked it for an Italian pen friend when he visited England, and I’ve cooked it for our Portuguese friends in Madeira – it’s so simple but it’s always gone down a treat”

The reason I first ever tried it? She put chocolate buttons in the crumble topping 😉

I haven’t looked back since…. And neither will you…. It’s so classically British to me, it tastes like home.

Granny’s Pear & Plum Cider Crumble (serves 4-6)

Fruit: For this specific recipe you can use any types of pears and plums – in this case we used yellow plums, but a mixture of red and yellow go nicely, Victoria plums are also a favourite. Conference pears are really nice and English, but Williams will do just fine. Other combinations of fruit include apple and blackberry, rhubarb, peach and plum: just make sure they are not too ripe.

Cider: We like to use apple cider, but you can use any of the fruit ciders creating a different twist –  medium dry does the job best: just make sure it isn’t over sweet.

Crumble Topping: Oats in the crumble are optional – we find the magic touch is chocolate, we started off with cadburys chocolate buttons and now branch out to all kinds of generally milk chocolate bars, even continental supermarket blocks are fine.

450g of fruit (we used 3 large pears and 6 plums)

150-200ml cider (just enough to cover the fruit – and to your taste!)

For The Crumble Topping:

100g plain flour

75g butter

50g rolled oats

100g demerara sugar

1 ½ mars bar (yes I ate the other half and so can you… of course any other type of chocolate you think will add to the flavour is just fine… work with it!)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  2. Peel and chop the fruit of your choice (when we use two different types of plums we tend not to peel all of them to add texture and colour)
  3. Pour the cider over the fruit in a pot on the oven-top. Gently cook until the fruit has softened, but not broken up (this usually takes around 10 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the fruit)
  4. Meanwhile to make the crumble topping, rub the butter into the flour and then stir in the sugar, oats (if desired) and chocolate
  5. Spoon the cooked fruit into an oven dish, leaving behind most of the liquid. Sprinkle the crumble topping over (making sure you leave no gaps as the fruit will leak out) and bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until golden brown
  6. Serve with ice-cream or custard and enjoy!

The King of Desserts: Baked Alaska

So… what I want to know is who’s up for this challenge?!

Watch out guys… once you fall into the trap of attempting a Baked Alaska, you get addicted to eating it, addicted to making it and then addicted to changing and tweaking it constantly, adding new flavours and textures and just getting really really inventive!

When I realised how to master this one, I just couldn’t stop making it. And when we were all too stuffed to eat any more, I started freezing it and turning into one of those horrid people who eat things out of a tub, with a spoon, in front of Downton Abbey… heaven.

It seemed pretty daunting when I looked up how to make it, and the first few times I definitely needed another pair of hands just to hand me spoons, ingredients, tea towels and just a word of support – you can do this!

So here I am telling you – you can do this too!

I love the fact that you can make the sponge a day or two before you want to make the Baked Alaska. I like the idea that I don’t feel too guilty buying delicious tubs of ice cream, rather than panicking over making it myself – going through the whole custard, heating etc stress. And I love how easy making meringue is, as long as you get the peaks stiff…. GET THE PEAKS STIFF (you’ve gotta keep chanting this to yourself)

I also love the excitement of spreading the meringue over the pyramid of ice cream before it starts to warm! It’s so so so quick and it bakes in even less time. Just make sure there are no gaps when you spread the meringue over, otherwise the ice cream will melt out in the oven.

I love when you cut a slice and all the layers look pretty damn perfect and you feel pretty damn proud at the fact that you actually made this yourself – and even when you take your first bite, the sensation of hot and cold is just insane (yes i’m starting to sound a little like one of the M&S adverts).

I just really really love this one! So because it involves a little preparation and various layers I’ve included some advice and sections to help you through it.

Let me know how it goes guys!

Baked Alaska (depending on how greedy you are – it usually serves around 5 people)


What you need

Sponge cake (I’ve included a vanilla sponge but you can switch this for a chocolate sponge)

Ice cream (I like to use vanilla and fruit flavoured ice cream with the vanilla sponge, or a chocolate and sweet flavour with a chocolate sponge)

Fruit jam or Chocolate spread

Fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries or blueberries (or chocolate buttons)

Meringue

A baking tray and a hot oven!


What you need to make

For The Sponge:

100g caster sugar

100g softened butter

2 eggs, beaten

100g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla essence

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and grease your tin
  2. In a bowl, beat all the cake ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft batter
  3. Spoon mixture into tin and bake for 15-20 minutes
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack

For The Meringue:

3 eggs whites

175g caster sugar

  1. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed
  2. Slowly whisk in the sugar and continue to whisk until glossy and very stiff peaks form

 How to assemble the dreaded Baked Alaska (it’s not too bad don’t worry!)

  • Firstly whack the oven on full blast
  • Place the sponge on a baking tray and spread the jam/chocolate spread over
  • Arrange scoops of ice cream in a pyramid shape on top – place the fresh fruit/chocolate buttons all along the pyramid of ice cream
  • Spoon the meringue all over the ice cream – make sure there are no gaps! Use the back of a spoon to make a swirl pattern (try and complete this as fast as you can, as the ice cream will start to melt)
  • Turn the oven down to 200 degrees and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden-brown all over
  • Sit back and enjoy the amazing combination of hot and cold – serve with fresh fruit and coulis or a hot chocolate sauce!

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This was my first attempt – as you can see I didn’t put any jam in between the sponge and ice cream layer which led to it separating a little – thus I would recommend a layer of spread or fruit to act almost like a glue

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Second attempt – didn’t quite create the ‘swirl effect’ I wanted but still looking yummy!

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I only used one flavour of ice cream with this attempt – creating a simple taste!

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This time worked out SO well – although I forgot to put the fruit actually in the pudding!

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A mini baked alaska never hurt anyone!

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SO TASTY!

Peach Cobbler

I’ve never been a big fan of ‘fruity’ desserts. Chocolate is always my first choice; the sweeter the better. I love my Mom’s crumble but I always get her to throw in some chocolate buttons in the crumble topping just to give me that fix (the cider might have something to do with it as well!). But we had some peaches in the fridge that were turning pretty ripe, so after searching online I found Jamie Oliver’s Peach Cobbler recipe. Well….. this well and truly changed my mind!

It was SO SO easy to make, and it was SO SO sweet to taste. The juices from the orange and lime worked so well with the peaches, the crumble dough gave it a good depth and balance and the cold ice-cream created a delicious contrast to the hot pudding.

Honestly give this one a try… you kind of feel quite healthy eating it as well… it’s so light!

Peach Cobbler (serves 6)

8 ripe peaches, stoned and cut into wedges

1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways and seeds scraped out

Zest on 1 lime

40g soft brown sugar

Zest and juice of 1 orange

2.5cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

Topping:

100g self-raising flour

50g caster sugar

Sea salt

100g unsalted butter

Icing sugar and ice-cream to serve

  1. Preheat the oven to full whack
  2. Toss the peaches with the vanilla seeds, lime juice, brown sugar, orange zest and juice and ginger
  3. Put the mixture into a dish and place in the oven – turning down the heat to 190 degrees
  4. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the peaches have softened slightly
  5. Meanwhile, to make the topping mix the flour, sugar and salt, then grate in the butter.
  6. Using your fingertips, gently rub in the butter, until it resembles breadcrumbs
  7. Add a few drops of water to bring to a dough
  8. Remove the peaches from the oven and pour in half a glass of water
  9. Gently mix and then drop a tablespoon dollop of the dough on top of the peaches
  10. Return the dish to the oven and bake for a further 15-20 minutes
  11. Remove from the oven and sprinkle icing sugar on top and serve with ice-cream

Valentine’s Day Special

I was supposed to be elsewhere for the 14th February, thus I wasn’t expecting to have to cook anything that special. However as life is, nothing goes as smoothly as one would hope it would, and plans change. So I’ve been left with the challenge of whipping up something nice for dinner this evening. Mom and dad are here, my brother is visiting (he is extremely fussy when it comes to food) and I’ve invited my best friend Katie over to join us.

As I look in my fridge, all I can see is chicken, chicken, chicken – which is great as Laurence likes chicken and ‘plain’ dishes. Perfect. Now what to do with it?! It’s kind of a dreary day outside; windy, rainy and dull. Dad’s already starting on the fire and I’m sitting with a hot water bottle in the kitchen, coffee in hand, pondering on what makes a simple, plain, yet tasty dish, which satisfies all needs of a good hearty dinner, with a special hint for valentine’s day.

Hey presto – Coq au vin! I haven’t had time to put anything in the slow cooker, and I don’t have time to go out and buy any ingredients… what do we have in the fridge? Chicken: yep, garlic: yep, bacon: yep, shallots: yep, mushrooms: yep, herbs: yep, stock: yep, and of course red wine: YEP!

I look through all Mom’s old cooking books to find a recipe which fits my needs: quick and simple. I find a Casserole book where Mom makes her heavenly beef bourguignon and Irish stew from and I’ve got the perfect recipe:

Coq Au Vin (serves 4)

1.5kg chicken pieces

Plain flour

40g butter

2 cloves garlic, crushed

200g bacon, chopped

250g shallots

200g button mushrooms, halved

2 tbsp brandy

250ml dry red wine

250ml chicken stock

Fresh parsley

2 tsp finely chopped thyme

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp tomato puree

  1. Toss chicken in the flour and shake away any excess flour.
  2. Heat the butter in a large saucepan and cook the chicken until browned all over
  3. Drain all but 1 tbsp of the liquid from the pan and remove the chicken.
  4. Cook the garlic, bacon, shallots and mushrooms in the remaining liquid
  5. Return the chicken to the pan. Add the brandy, wine, stock, herbs, bay leaf and puree. Cover and simmer for around 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender
  6. Remove the chicken from the pan and simmer the sauce until thickened.
  7. Discard bay leaf before serving
  8. Serve the chicken with the sauce

It’s the perfect combination of warmth and flavour with the simplicity that anyone can do it. Now for pudding? Uh-oh this could be a tricky one. Again, I’m limited for time and I need something that everyone will like. I know Laurence likes toffee, I know Mom loves custard, I know Dad is absolutely obsessed with dates (they have to be from Israel) and I know that Katie pretty much likes anything sweet… quick look in Delia’s Christmas specials…. Sticky Toffee Pudding anyone? Yes please.

As long as you have some double cream for the sauce, you’ve probably got pretty much everything else in your cupboards somewhere. Here’s the recipe:

Sticky Toffee Pudding (Serves 6)

175g stoned dates, chopped (if desired)

½ tsp vanilla essence

2 tsp camp coffee essence

¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

75g unsalted butter, room temperature

Delia uses 150g caster sugar but I like to replace this with light muscovado or demerara sugar to give it a richer taste

2 eggs, beaten

175g self-raising flour, sifted

I also like to add 1 tbsp black treacle and 1 tbsp golden syrup to give it that really sticky texture

For the sauce: 25g pecan nuts, chopped (if desired) 175g soft brown sugar 110g unsalted butter 6 tbsp double cream 1 tbsp black treacle

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  2. Begin by putting the chopped dates in a bowl and pouring 175ml boiling water over them
  3. Add the vanilla extract, coffee essence and bicarbonate of soda and leave on one side
  4. Next cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl, beating until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy
  5. Gradually add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Gently fold in the sifted flour, then fold in the date mixture (including the liquid)
  7. Finally add the black treacle and then place mixture in a baking tin for around 25 minutes
  8. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes
  9. Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a saucepan and heating very gently until the sugar has melted and all the crystals have dissolved
  10. To serve the puddings: pre-heat the grill to its highest setting, and pour the sauce evenly over the pudding
  11. Place under the grill, and let it heat through for about 8 minutes

And here’s how it all went: IMG_6168

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