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Posted on Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 5 p.m.

London Olympics sticky toffee pudding is an easy way to salute the event's host country

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

The Olympics will open in London on Friday evening, with the traditional ceremony to welcome the world.

When Jeremy was younger, we would take this opportunity to learn about each host country; but then, many world events prompted special foods. Just as we ate Pavlova with beautiful summer berries in honor of the Sydney Olympics, I remember making a lovely, moist coconut bread when Pope John Paul II visited Cuba. Also, each week I'd let Jeremy pick a country and we would eat a representative food — everything from piadine, Italian tortilla-like flatbreads, to Ethiopian stews made of lentils or greens.

I miss those days... I'll have to start doing that again, or perhaps ask readers to nominate countries. I'm always in need of new prompts for posts, after all, and I like to engage and interact with people.

But I digress ....

I debated whether to serve a red, white 'n' blue "rah rah"-type of dish to support the United States. I thought about my own heritage, but I'm a mutt, and it would take an entire buffet table to serve foods from each country that's mingled into my DNA.

I considered dishes that are deeply, distinctly representative of this country; but then my brain started to hurt, because there are so many — apple pie, barbecue, clam chowder — and it could be argued that they had been influenced by other cuisines. Should I make something from Native American traditions, such as Navajo fry bread?

I gave up. Instead, I decided to represent the host country, England. Except that the Brits are sadly not noted for their food, despite there being some classic dishes (with great names, too, like "Toad in the Hole") and recent improvements in the cuisine.

But then I remembered a lovely English dessert, Sticky Toffee Pudding, which is one of my favorites. It's ridiculously easy to make, and it even features dates so you can delude yourself that there's nutritional value because of the fruit.

My favorite version of this recipe comes from Nigella Lawson, an English writer, cook, cookbook author, television host, and food lover whom I feel is thoroughly underrated. As Wikipedia states in its biography of her: "Throughout Lawson's television programmes, she emphasises that she cooks for her own pleasure, for enjoyment, and that she finds cooking therapeutic .... One editor, highlighting the technical simplicity of Lawson's recipes, noted that 'her dishes require none of the elaborate preparation called for by most TV chefs'."

Some of Nigella's recipes are very sophisticated with exotic spices, and others are as basic and decadent as fried candy bars.  And anyone can make them. She's not classically trained; she simply makes whatever she feels like eating. She's also noted for raiding the refrigerator to sneak extra tastes after everyone else in the household has gone to bed.

And, how could I — of all people — not love someone whose writing style is described as "chatty and florid"? Nigella is my kindred spirit!

So, in honor of the Olympic games, try a typically English dessert while watching others burn off those calories you're enjoying. That's what I intend to do!

Nigella Lawson's Easy Sticky Toffee Pudding
(slightly adapted)

For the cake:
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup + 2 tablespoons self-rising flour
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup chopped dates

For the sauce:
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter in little blobs
2 cups boiling water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter a 1-1/2-quart baking dish; place the baking dish into a large baking pan to catch any drips.

Make the cake: Combine the sugar with the flour in a large bowl. Pour the half-and-half into a measuring cup, beat in the egg, vanilla, and melted butter and then pour this mixture over the sugar and flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine. Fold in the dates, then scrape into the prepared baking dish. Don't worry if it doesn't look very full; it will by the time it cooks.

Make the sauce: Sprinkle the sugar over the cake mixture and dot with butter. Pour the boiling water over the batter (yes, really!) and transfer to the oven. Set the time for 50-60 minutes, though you might find the dessert needs 5 or 10 minutes more.  It will be set, like a cake, in the center but still have lots of bubbling sauce around the perimeter.


Mary Bilyeu, Contributor

Serve with vanilla ice cream, creme fraiche or heavy or light cream, as you wish.

Serves 6-8.

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Mary Bilyeu writes for on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, telling about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests, meeting new friends ... whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions, comments, or suggestions:

Go visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — where she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and look for her monthly articles in the Washtenaw Jewish News. "Like" her on Facebook, or send a tweet on Twitter, too.

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.


Diana Dyer

Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 3 a.m.

I still remember my first time to have sticky toffee pudding, which happened to be our last night on a trip to Scotland in 1999. Ahhhh, nothing but delicious memories! I still remember every bite. :)

Mary Bilyeu

Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 3:49 a.m.

Oh, I'm so happy to have triggered such a lovely memory ... :)


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

Love this pudding, thanks for the reminder and also thanks for not going the "spotted dick"route...


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

I found and spotted dick in a major grocery store a few years back. Was different to say the least. So if you spot Dick in the international section tell him he makes for one unusual dessert. Thanks for this one.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 11:38 p.m.

@blue - it still sounds like a disease to me

Mary Bilyeu

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 11:30 p.m.

I love this pudding, too; so even though some of the more amusingly named dishes did come to mind, a classic is always a classic and worth reminding people of ....


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

Oh yeah Nigella is not underrated, at least not by me ;)


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

And what do you know I happen to have a package of chopped dates that I had no idea what I wanted to use them for. This sounds delicious Mary, thanks for another great dessert recipe!

Mary Bilyeu

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

Serendipity! Or, in Hebrew, "bashert," which means "destiny" ... :)