Sticky Date Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce

Sticky Date Pudding

As the weather gets cooler, I crave for a warm pudding. And sticky date pudding is an easy and delicious one to whip up! Such a comfort to eat the pudding with some cream, knowing that the temperature is dropping to single digits outside.

My first sticky date pudding was a Sara Lee sticky date. It wasn’t until I moved to Australia when I was able to eat a homemade sticky date pudding, and eating it with vanilla ice cream was just amazing. This became an immediate favourite. And surprisingly so, as I never used to like dates. I would like to think that the sticky date is an Aussie dessert, but it might have it’s roots in England. The sticky date is called Toffee pudding in England and it actually does remind me of a toffee-flavoured sweet we had when we were young.

Sticky Date Pudding

 

I looked at a few recipes and picked a few things I liked from different recipes to come up with this. I prefer pureeing the dates (as Jamie Oliver recommends) but a lot of people like getting the small bites of the dates, so I’ve come to a happy compromise by pureeing only half.

With the sugar and the dates that go in the recipe, I thought the cake would be too sweet, but trust me, it’s not. And when you soak the pudding (the more the better) with the sauce, it is absolutely delicious. I’ve made a salted caramel sauce but you can omit the salt and have a regular butterscotch sauce. While I’ve made this in individual ramekins this can also be made in a muffin tray or a cake pan (20cm square cake tin) as well.

Sticky Date Pudding

Ingredients
Serves 8-10
Sticky Date Pudding

  • 340g fresh dates, seeded and chopped
  • 1½ cups (375ml) boiling water
  • 1½ tsp bicarb soda
  • 150g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 cup (175g) brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ cups (225g) self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt

Butterscotch Sauce

  • 80g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1½ cups (265g) brown sugar
  • 1 cup (250ml) Single (pouring) cream
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven for 180 degrees.
  • Mix the dates and bicarbonate soda in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Rest for about 5 minutes.  Then puree half the date mixture in a food processor.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat till mixed.
  • Add the date mixtures (pureed and the chopped dates) into the egg mixture and mix using a wooden spoon. Fold in the self-raising flour and yoghurt till combined.
  • Pour the batter into greased individual ramekins or 20cm square cake tin (greased and lined with baking paper) and bake for about 40 minutes or until cooked when tested with skewer.
  • While the pudding is in the oven, make the sauce. Place the sugar, butter, salt and cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook till sugar and butter has melted and till the mixture thickens.
  • Serve puddings with the sauce and dollop cream or ice cream.
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Chocoflan

 

Chocoflan

My dessert making is mostly limited to Italian (panna cotta) or something chocolate or something Maldivian. Even with Maldivian desserts I am really limited to caramel pudding or kanamdhu cake. I really want to venture out to other cuisines.

As we were having a Mexican-themed dinner, I wanted to make a Mexican dessert and came across this recipe on SBS Food for a chocoflan. This cake is absolutely magical. I don’t know if this constitutes as a cake, but it really brings the best of both worlds, cake and flan together. This recipe reminded me of a simple trifle we made in the Maldives when I was younger. It was just layers of chocolate cake and custard, maybe some canned fruit cocktail mix if we were being fancy. And I absolutely loved this!

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Food in Thailand

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This was my first time visiting Thailand and I was very keen to check out the café culture there. While I knew I would be eating tasty Thai food, I also wanted to hunt down some local cafés and try some local food I haven’t had before.

I mostly researched and looked up cafés in Bangkok, but stumbled upon cafés in smaller places as well like Phuket and Samed Island. Google was a big help in finding cool ones like Bilbo’s café. Instagram was also very helpful, and as always, recommendations from friends and family too.

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Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut butter and Chocolate Chip Cookie

I hadn’t been planning on doing any baking on the long weekend. On top of packing and preparing for our holiday, fighting off a cold before traveling was crucial, and since we only have a few days left, our grocery shopping was very minimal.

But the craving to do some baking hit me. I thought I had all the pastry staples to whip up some cookies. Pastry staples I had, but we were out of eggs. It being Good Friday, usually everything is closed, but luckily, our local corner shop was open.

The really good thing about this cookie dough is I can easily freeze it. I rolled all the of dough into balls, and packed a few in a freezer bag, saving it for a rainy day. The last time I froze the dough, I rolled it into a log and cutting it had been a pain. So I made cookie dough balls which should be much easier to take out and bake.

Peanut butter and Chocolate Chip Cookie

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My husband has forever been asking me for some peanut butter cookies. I’ve made the base recipe a few times and has always worked, but making changes to it for the first time is always risky. What was the addition of the peanut butter going to do to the sugar to butter to flour ratio? I’ve seen what happens when I get the ratio wrong (usually things go haywire in the oven and by then it’s too late to do anything). When I mixed this recipe, the dough felt good and familiar, but there really was no way of telling how it would turn out until I baked it.

Peanut butter and Chocolate Chip Cookie

And the recipe worked! I wasn’t a huge fan of the smell of the peanut butter cookie dough; it smelt very strongly of peanut butter. But it tasted great! The texture was soft and chewy, and getting the bits of chocolate in it was so yummy. the cookie dough balls I rolled are probably a bit too small ( I used a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon) but the texture of the cookies was great.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 25 cookies

Ingredients:
– 120g butter, melted and cooled
– 220g (1 cup) brown sugar
– 55g (1/4 cup) castor sugar
– 130g (1/2 cup) smooth peanut butter
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 egg
– 1 egg yolk
– 300g (2 cups) flour, sifted
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1 cup dark chocolate (chopped coarsely)*

Method:
– Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Prepare an oven tray by greasing it lightly and lining it with baking paper.
– Place melted butter, peanut butter, sugars and vanilla in a bowl and beat with an electric mixture until smooth
– Add the egg and egg yolk and beat until the mixture is creamy.
– Add the flour and baking powder and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.  Then add the chocolate bits and mix until the dough comes together
– Spoon heaped tablespoonfuls of dough onto the lined oven tray, about 5cm apart. Flatten slightly and bake in oven for 6-8 minutes (or until edges are golden). When they come out, they will be soft but will harden as they cool. Cool completely on trays.

You can store these cookies in an air-tight container for 2-3 days and store the dough in the freezer for about 6 months.

* Note: you can use chocolate chips as well. When I made this today I actually used a mixture of chopped dark and milk chocolate.

 

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Honeycomb & Raspberries

Chocolate Panna Cotta

I’ve never been a huge fan of honeycomb. I just thought it would make a nice crunchy element for my chocolate panna cotta. The first time I saw honeycomb being made was when Reynold did it on Masterchef. I was wowed and amazed by the process and didn’t think I could make it until I saw it being made quite frequently in the following Masterchef seasons.

I had to make the honeycomb twice to get it right. I think I didn’t mix in the bicarbonate soda quickly enough in my first attempt, so the honeycomb did not set. There also was a layer of liquid sugar at the bottom. So for my second attempt, I hunted down a BBC GoodFood recipe with an accompanying a video that I found very useful.

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International Women’s Day 2018: Acts of Small Activism

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Today is International Women’s Day, and one of the themes this year is #PressforProgress. While we celebrate the achievements of women on this day, it is also important to stress the importance of continuing the work towards gender parity. By challenging stereotypes, supporting women, extending opportunities to women and campaigning for equality, we can aim to make sure the message of gender parity is being heard by those in power.

When advocating for gender parity, I feel that being able to have open and meaningful conversations about this issue is important and must be part of celebrating International Women’s Day. It is not enough to just celebrate how far women have come since the days of women’s’ suffrage, we need to continue acknowledging how much work there still needs to be done to achieve parity.

In this post, I want to highlight and share how some of the wonderful women in my life are taking part in actions of small activism every day. It is about celebrating everyday women and sharing how they strive for gender parity. For this post, I asked a few of the women I have regular contact some questions about their lives and their experiences as women. While reading some of their answers, I realised that they are making a difference for women in their engagement with their loved ones, friends and colleagues. Small actions and ideas such as these play a massive role in enriching the big global movement for women’s rights. The thoughtful and personal answers to the questions really engaged my thinking and I know there are some tips here that I can carry on and include in my life too.

For brevity, I haven’t included every response to each question, but rather, have tried to summarise answers that features similar themes. My interviewees for this post included (names have been changed):
Mariyam: Student (Age: 20)
Jane: Chef (Age: 32)
Hawwa: Allied Profession (Age: 53)
Alice: Human Rights trainer (Age: 37)
Amina: International development consultant (Age: 35)
Emma: Diplomat (Age:29)
Shifu: Community health worker (Age: 43)
Hilda: Mother (Age: 59)

1. What do you think is your biggest achievement?
I had varying answers for this question, which included a range from successes in their careers, to motherhood and educational achievements.

Shifu said ‘I was the first of my family to attend university and always wanted to work in health/emergency services. Even when I was told l’m not smart enough to study these areas, I decided to try achieving my goals by doing different education pathways which lead me to a fantastic nursing and paramedicine career’.

Mariyam had a similar experience and is now very proud of the fact that she is able to study architecture despite people around her saying this was not a career for a girl. Alice currently works directly in developing human rights and gender parity initiatives and notes how fantastic that she gets to make a career out of working in this field. Amina has worked in over 11 countries and she stated being able to travel, and break into the international community as a practitioner as a big achievement. According to Jane, ‘coming to Australia as a naive 20-year-old to finish studies and getting into the industry of my choice’ was one of her biggest achievements. The difficulties of moving homes, building an independent livelihoods in challenging, and often highly competitive environments, as well as trying to fit-in in a foreign country is no easy feat, and really goes to show these women’s tenacity and courage. Hilda described raising her two children to be reliable and responsible adults, despite the adversities she faced, as one of her biggest achievements.

While I did identify with a lot of the above answers, one that really resonated with me was what Hawwa considered her biggest achievement: self-acceptance. As women, we are constantly measuring ourselves against societal norms and fighting or trying to meet certain expectations. To truly accept ourselves along with our limitations as well as what makes us unique and being a functional and contributing member to society is more than enough. We’re all trying our best. Hawwa puts this beautifully:

“That sounds pretty indulgent but it comes from a place of knowing I am not a ‘Capital A achiever’, being more an Indian than a chief. I can remember my despondency when I first came across the quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that ‘Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people’. Whilst there have been times in my life where I’ve felt the exhilaration of trying to discuss ideas, mostly the discussion has been initiated by someone else (usually male) and my contributions have been lacking in conviction and somewhat patchy in breadth and depth!
By now, however, I’ve come across the wonderful Melbourne based author, Helen Garner, much loved in my book group. Helen makes no apologies for her fascination with the sphere of the personal, the domestic. It seems to me that she legitimises discussion of the self, others, the nature of relationships and the minutiae of everyday lives because these things are fundamental to being human. If we don’t try to understand ourselves and other people, maybe we miss seeing trends in events and can’t generate ideas to try to make our world a better place.
So on a good day, I can ignore that damning voice in my head about being an under achiever and listen to the one that says it’s ok to have as one’s goals being a ‘good enough parent’, a loving partner, a thoughtful daughter, a caring sister, an interested aunt, a kind friend, a welcoming neighbour, a supportive colleague, a helpful therapist, a compassionate citizen of the world and a gun photographer!”

2. How are you going to press for progress in gender parity?
In answering this question, Jane stated maintaining a balanced household where her husband shared the domestic responsibilities without segregating them into gender roles as something she practices. ‘I hope to instil these values in my son so that he grows up as someone who naturally accepts and values gender parity. On a professional level, I always demand same pay and working conditions as my male counterparts.’

One of the many things Amina did was to avoid imposing gender rules on children. ‘I like to encourage people around me to stop using phrases like ‘girls don’t shout’ or ‘boys don’t cry…. What’s wrong with girls raising their voice or raging? Why shouldn’t we let boys express their emotions? Why can’t we let children be children?’

Alice highlighted that she did not stay silent when people make gender stereotypical remarks or assumptions. “One of the most important things we can all do is to make sure the kids around us, in our life, grow up with a sense of gender sensitivity and awareness and self-confidence to be advocates for change.”

A recurring theme was how these women encouraged their friends and children to make choices based on their abilities and not to hesitate if the reason was ‘it’s not for girls’.
Hilda particularly highlighted how she had to encourage her granddaughter as she sometimes hesitated, saying the boys were much better at sports and studies than her.
“I guess she took my advice. She is in the national basketball team now and captain of the school team.”

3. What one piece of advice would you give your 13-year-old self?

“If you are verbally harassed on the road, say something back.”

Amina

“Stop caring about what other people think of you. This will save you a lot of heartache in future years because you will not strive so much to be liked”

Emma

“I would tell myself to not listen to anyone including yourself that tells you, you can’t do anything or be anything.”

Alice

“As a 13 year-old growing in the Maldives I would tell her that I need to take every opportunity I get and run with it!”

Jane

“Listen to music and really listen to people.”

Hawwa

“Don’t worry too much about things or your future. When the time is right you’ll know what to do. Trust your gut and don’t let little things give you anxiety.”

Mariyam

“have more self-confidence and go ahead for what I want”

Hilda

“I believe in you, you’re an incredibly strong and resilient person who is intelligent and wise. Just believe in your ability”

Shifa

 

4. Who are your role models? What about them do you admire?
“My most significant role model is my father who has always treated me as his equal and allowed me as a child to do the supposedly-typically male jobs. He was always humble and graceful and showed me how to respect myself and others.” Shifa

“My mum and dad — they didn’t have the chance to finish their education. But they have made it their life mission to ensure that my brother and I have an education and have the opportunities that they never had.” Emma

“My mom — She still has very traditional views that girls should have long hair, behave in a particular way, get married and have kids. But why I see her as my role model is that even though she was brought up to believe all of this, she proved different and raised five kids on her own. She went out and worked when she never went to school herself or had employment before. She showed me, I can be and do anything I wanted regardless of what I’ve been told or what my circumstances are.” Alice

“My mother — making some of her dreams a reality, tackling big tasks for her community, sticking to her beliefs even if it’s been the unpopular position. My aunt — very loving wife and mother, recognising the individual strengths/interests of each of her children and connecting with them. My friend — calmness, persistence in times of struggle, a belief that there are solutions to most of life’s challenges even though they may not be the most obvious ones” Hawwa

“My mom — one of the most strong and amazing women I know and she will always be my role model. She has always been by my side, helping with anything that I found difficult in life. She has taught me how to be strong and patient and kind.” Mariyam

5. What is your favourite movie/TV show/ book with a strong female character?
Reading books written by female authors or watching TV shows/movies that demonstrate a strong female lead and character development is something we can do to support gender parity and demand a more diverse product from these media. The following are some of the participants’ favourite books, movies or tv shows. Put them on your to-read/to-watch lists!
– Period Dramas such as The Crown and Victoria ‘Fascinating accounts of how these women ruled at that time’
– Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. We all love Elizabeth Bennett, who was ahead of her times in her values and ideas. ‘She knew her own self-worth and wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself and her sisters, but also was graceful in admitting when she was wrong. She was intelligent and willing to speak her mind in an era that women typically were quiet and demure.’
– Mad Men. ‘I liked how Peggy Olsen’s character evolved’. In fact, this TV show has multiple strong female characters who come to their own, which is particularly admirable for a show set in the 50s.
– Freedom Writers. ‘It shows how one person can make a difference. It never is easy, but it’s about the passion to do the right thing and to do the best you can to build a better world. And what better way to make the world a better place than to make sure we are leaving behind better people.
– Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
– Baby Boom. ‘Her career suffers as her boss doesn’t believe she can do a good enough job with a baby. She leaves her job and moves to the country and there she builds up her own baby food empire starting off as a home business.’

I’d like to thank Mariyam, Jane, Hawwa, Alice, Amina, Emma, Shifu and Hilda for taking the time to answer these questions, and for sharing their ideas on everyday activism. I’m really proud to know them and grateful to have them in my life. Together, let’s #PressforProgress!

Easy, Chewy Brownies

Chocolate brownies

It has been a while since I have made brownies. I had actually forgotten how easy it is to bake a batch. I had to take something for a work afternoon tea and initially had though to baking a cake or making some cupcakes. But the thought of having to bring butter to room temperature, make a buttercream, or washing numerous bowls just left me feeling a bit tired.

The Milk and White Chocolate brownie recipe I had posted earlier is usually my go to recipe. But even that required some ingredients like sour cream which I did not have at home. Going to the supermarket at that time was not appealing so I needed to come up with a simple recipe but still featured one of my favourite things about my brownie recipe; chopped white chocolate bits which caramelised in the oven! And I was lucky I had some white chocolate in the pantry.

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