We’d made a date.  Actually, it was more of a dinner engagement.  It had even made it into my cooking column in the Waikato Times, but it all turned to custard.

A friend told us she was going through the winter without heating her house.  We were intrigued and asked why.

The answer involved her getting titchy at her power supplier when they’d, by mistake, cut off her service.

Kate is not a woman to mess with.  Years ago she’d protested against nuclear weapons at Greenham Common.  And now she was preparing to endure a winter without heaters or gas.  Only scarves, woolly mittens, and hotties are allowed.  Almost like Scott in the Antarctic.

We felt her pain, and also the need to proffer a helping, gloved hand.   The least we could do was invite her and mutual friends around to our house, get both fires burning and offer a warming feast.

And I would make Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce, the most decadent pudding on the face of the planet.  I hadn’t made this gastronomical delight for about a decade, so it would be good to meet it again, as it were. Eating this pud results in almost total immobility, it is so rich and sweet and glorious.  After a helping of this, no task on the farm is too hard or onerous, it stuffs one to the gills.

Kate lasted about a month.  “No, no, it all got too cold, much too cold,” she told me a few days before the lavish feast.  But we decided to carry on regardless because, at this time of year, any excuse for wanton eating must be jumped at.

So, on the due date, I hoovered and I cleaned, I put the cat out and the fires on.  And I began cooking and cooking.  In fact, I noticed the clock saying 2 pm, as I set to making my traditional Spaghetti Bolognese, featuring bacon, finely chopped steak, and freshly made tomato sauce, cooked long and slow.  This is served with homemade pasta – I made four times the normal amount.

Then I began putting together two Sticky Date puddings and popped them in the oven.  I was at the flopping stage, where most things are done and all you have to do is open a bottle of wine and relax when the phone rang.   It was 5.30 pm.

It was one of our esteemed dinner guests, and after some social niceties, he announced that after an exciting day everyone was too tired to come around for dinner and could we do it some other time.

My ears almost fell off.  I gasped a few times like a goldfish and put the phone down.  We had enough food for 8 or 10 people, definitely enough for a soccer team.  There was nothing for it, we would have to eat it all ourselves.

So, our friends were in the dog box, well and truly.  But I couldn’t be too cross, I did have some beautiful food to enjoy and didn’t have to cook again for a week.   And they are splendid people.  Next time, however – they bring pizza. 

Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

  • 1 ¼  cup pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 60g butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.  Grease a cake tin (I used a 20cm round casserole dish which worked fine.)  Process dates in a food processor and put them into a bowl.  Add baking soda and water.  Stir, and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well.  Stir in flour and date mixture and pour into the tin.
Bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  In the last five minutes, pour the butterscotch sauce over the pudding and return to the oven.  This makes it really sticky.

Butterscotch sauce

  • 150g brown sugar
  • 250ml cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp butter

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Simmer for five minutes. 

Greenham Common Grub 

This is a fair dinkum recipe from those glorious days of protest.  Kate says what you do is grab any stray furniture and make a big fire.  Sofas were great because they have a lot of wood underneath.  Multi-tasking at its best – the fire warms and feeds you.

  • 1 can of baked beans, per person
  • 1 chopped onion, per person
  • a dash of oil

Into a pan over the fire, add the oil, and gently fry the onion.

Add the baked beans and heat until piping hot, stirring.  Eat immediately and talk about the evils of the military-industrial complex (or whatever they were).