Date and Honey Bread-and-Butter Pudding

Here is a Mediterranean fruit pudding recipe suitable for a cool night. I included it in the cookery course I taught in Andalusia, Spain, having been inspired by the Huerto del Curo, the date-palm groves in Elche near Alicante, and the small shops nearby selling the locally grown dates.

Dried stoned dates and honey together cook down to a rich, dark syrupy layer, between the baked bread and butter, soaked in a mixture of beaten egg, milk and dessert wine. You could use Malaga, muscatel or cream sherry. Unrefined sugar can be used in place of honey, if you prefer.

To make this pudding with Medjool-type dates would be generous indeed, and it would make a splendid pudding. (A more everyday type of dried fruit, such as you might use for baking, will also be very good.) And if these dates are a little hard, pour a small amount of boiling water over them, but not enough to wash away the flavour, only enough to soften them.

Serve the pudding warm, not steaming hot, and accompanied by chilled vanilla custard, ice cream, or thick yoghurt.

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Method

What you need is good white bread, sliced, and enough to loosely fill your chosen ovenproof dish. Generously butter the bread, one side only, with unsalted butter, and grease the dish with it.

Allow a handful of dates per person – 5 or 6 smaller ones, or 3 Medjool dates. Stone and chop them.

For six people, beat 3 free-range eggs into 500 mls (18 oz) milk and 100 mls (4 oz) sweet wine, together with a tablespoon of sugar.

Layer half the bread in the dish, and then cover with the chopped dates, the juice of half a lemon, and 2-3 tablespoons unrefined sugar, or honey. Top with the remaining bread.

Gradually pour the batter over the pudding, and allow it to stand for 45 minutes or so.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for about 45 to 60 minutes, covering the top if it shows signs of burning or cooking too crisp.

If you have a Pyrex dish with a lid, put the lid on, the pudding will puff up to fill it, and the top will brown nicely but not be too crisp. As it cools, of course, the pudding will subside.

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