This time of year we all crave the sort of comfort food that reminds us of our childhood and for me that means Sticky Toffee Pudding with a Butterscotch Sauce.

I first tasted this sublime dessert at the Sharrow Bay Hotel in the English Lake District over thirty years ago. The owners, Brian Sack and Francis Coulson, ran this iconic hotel for more than fifty years and are, quite rightly, credited with inventing the country lodge- of which there are now several hundred in Britain – and they epitomised the characteristics which made their hotel perhaps the best known of its kind in the world.

It was a different time then, a time when the major goal of every chef was to make the food as rich as possible, so much so that the famous quote was one doctor’s jest that dining at Sharrow Bay was “the quickest and most pleasurable way to a coronary I know”. Now times have changed and we all worry about what is in our food, how much animal fat or sugar, and it is the role of us chefs to be at the forefront of the fight for good food. We are right to recognize the fact that what we eat is the single most important decision that we make everyday.

On the basis that we are what we eat, today I am cold and in need of comfort, so as a treat I’m going back in time to sit in that chintzy dining room surrounded by bazaar cherubs where Coulson was dedicated to his kitchen, championing local food and cooking, while Sack cosseted and entertained their many devotees. Ah, nostalgia is a wonderful thing.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Serves 8

110g softened butter

175g caster sugar

3 beaten eggs

225g self raising flour

225g stoned dates chopped and covered with 275ml boiling water

1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 tablespoon coffee extract

For the topping:

75g brown sugar

50g butter

45ml double cream

Method

Cream butter and sugar and slowly add the beaten eggs.  Fold in the sifted flour.  In a separate bowl put the chopped dates and boiling water, then add the vanilla essence, coffee extract and lastly bicarbonate of soda.  Mix together the two mixes, folding carefully and turn into a buttered 23cm cake tin.  (The batter will be very runny.)  Bake for 1½ hours at 180˚C.  Meanwhile, bring together topping ingredients in a pan and place over a medium heat.  When well melted, pour over cooked pudding and place under a hot grill until it bubbles.

For those that need a little extra comfort try the Little Sweetie from Mills Reef, Bliss.

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