April 13, 2013

Every 6-8 weeks I invite my original group of students to come along for a blind tasting of a selection of wines that we review for the website.  At our Christmas meeting I had chosen a fortified dessert wine to taste, well a Vintage Fortified Shiraz from McLaren Vale in Australia, which in fact is very much in the “Vintage Port” style but, as it is made outside of Portugal it cannot be labelled as such.

I expected the wine to be very strong and powerful (18.5% alcohol), hopefully with a complex palate of intense sweet black fruit flavours as well as liquorice, chocolate and coffee.  We would need a very over-the-top pudding packed full of character but not sickly sweet with it.  My immediate thoughts lead me to a chocolate dessert but I felt we needed a little more complexity to match the wine and a gooey toffee-type pud seemed appealing. Delia came to the rescue with her Little Sticky Toffee Puddings with Pecan Toffee Sauce. They are as good as they sound.  They were a huge hit, as was the wine and naturally the combination was heavenly.  Here is the recipe, I hope you will try it………………..

From Delia Smith’s Christmas by Delia Smith

Serves 8


75gm butter, at room temperature
150gm caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
175gm self-raising flour
175gm stoned dates, chopped
175ml boiling water
½ tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp coffee essence
¾ level tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the sauce:

175 gm soft brown sugar
110 gm butter
6 tbsp double cream
25 gm pecan nuts, chopped

To serve:

Chilled pouring cream

Pre-heat the oven 180°C


You will also need eight 175 g metal pudding basins or eight 7.5cm ramekin dishes, lightly oiled with groundnut oil, a Swiss-roll tin, and a baking sheet.


1. Begin by putting the chopped dates in a bowl and pouring 175 ml boiling water over them.
2. Then add the vanilla essence, coffee essence and bicarbonate of soda and leave on one side. Next, in a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together, beating (preferably with an electric hand whisk) until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy.
3. Now gradually add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. After that, carefully and lightly fold in the sifted flour using a metal spoon, and then you can fold in the date mixture (including the liquid).
5. You’ll probably think at this stage that you’ve done something wrong, because the mixture will look very sloppy, but don’t worry: that is perfectly correct and the slackness of the mixture is what makes the puddings so light.
6. Now divide the mixture equally among the eight containers, place them on a baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for 25 mins.
7. When they’re cooked, leave them to cool for 5 minutes, then, using a cloth to protect your hands, slide a small palette knife around each pudding and turn it out. If they have risen too much you may have to slice a little off the tops so that they can sit evenly on the plate. Now place the puddings on a shallow Swiss-roll tin. Next, 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.
8. To serve the puddings: pre-heat the grill to its highest setting, and pour the sauce evenly over the puddings. Place the tin under the grill, so the tops of the puddings are about 13 cm from the heat (knock off any nuts on the top to prevent them browning) and let them heat through for about 8 minutes. What will happen is the tops will become brown and slightly crunchy and the sauce will be hot and bubbling.
9. Serve with chilled pouring cream or ice cream – and sit back to watch the looks of ecstasy on the faces of your guests.

La Femme

This recipe collection from Delia was first published in 1994.  I don’t necessarily refer to it every Christmas but it contains some delightful and timeless recipes.  I re-visited this little treasure for our Christmas Wine Club, the sweet, sticky, gooey nuttiness of the puds found a perfect match in the lusciously sweet and powerful Vintage Fortified Shiraz dessert wine we had tasted. I can’t think of a nicer finish to any meal, unless of course we go down the chocolate route……..

Le Vin:

Woodstock, Very Old Fortified, (Grenache/Syrah), McLaren Vale, Australia, 20 years old, MYR105

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