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This post is everything but healthy – thought I’d better warn you in case the New Year’s resolutions are still intact. All three of these recipes deserve a mention though – look no further if you need a crowd-pleasing pud for your next dinner party.

Caramelised oranges ‘a la turque’

Oranges are such good value at the moment – this has to be one of the cheapest puddings around at this time of year and so refreshing after the Christmas stodge. This is one of my Grandma’s recipes. Mum and I panicked when we couldn’t find the recipe in her handwritten book last week but it turned out she’d filed it under ‘Oranges a la Turque’. We have no idea where it originated but it may have been a result of a Mediterranean cooking course she took back in the seventies, which at the time was considered very cutting edge.

Once you’ve peeled and sliced the oranges and got over your phobia of making caramel it’s actually very easy, and it tastes even better the next day.

  • 6-8 oranges, peeled and sliced into 0.5cm rounds, plus the rind of 2-3 oranges, very thinly peeled and sliced into batons – if you can find blood oranges these are really fragrant and look beautiful but navel are fine too
  • 8 oz caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp brandy

Boil the rinds in water for a few minutes (until transparent) to remove the bitterness, then drain and place in a bowl with the sliced oranges. Make the caramel by placing your sugar in a heavy-based saucepan with 1/4 pint cold water. Leave over a low/medium heat until light brown in colour – whatever you do don’t stir it as this disrupts the sugar crystals and you’ll end up with a horrible sticky mess. While the caramel is cooking, make sure you have on hand a measuring jug containing 1 tbsp cold water and the brandy. Once the caramel has coloured, turn off the heat and, wearing oven gloves, pour the cold liquid into the caramel, stirring vigorously to dissolve any lumps (be careful as it may spit a bit). Pour the contents of the saucepan over the oranges and rind and leave until ready to eat – 24 hours is ideal.

This is very tasty with a dollop of greek yoghurt and some dainty biscuits such as langues du chat.

Crostata

CrostataThis is an absolute staple in Italy – in reality it is a glorified jam tart and slightly reminiscent of school dinners but tastes none the worst for this! I don’t think the Italians usually eat it with custard either…

We made minature versions to maintain some illusion of restraint but a huge square or rectangular tart would be a dramatic dessert for a casual supper. The basic recipe is by Katie Caldesi and you can find it on the BBC Food website. We used raspberry jam. Although this recipe is very easy, do make sure you don’t over-work the pastry or you’ll lose the crumbly, flaky shortness that is crucial to a good crostata.

Sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee puddingThis is one of my all-time favorite puddings. It has to be a good sticky toffee though – none of this ‘sponge with a hint of dates’ but a gooey and indulgent mixture with excessive amounts of sauce.

This is one of Marcus Wareing’s recipes, and I think he gets it spot on apart from the sauce – this one just doesn’t feel dark and decadent enough. I think next time I might try Nigel Slater’s toffee sauce – I’ll let you know how it goes. However, this recipe does work very well if you make the puddings the day before, pour over a bit of the sauce and reheat the next day.

  • 150g roughly chopped dried dates
  • 75g soft unsalted butter
  • 175g golden syrup
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 50ml milk
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g plain flour
  • Salt

Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 125ml whipping or double cream

Heat oven to 180ºC and grease 6 200ml pudding moulds. Simmer the chopped dates with 175ml water until softened to a chunky puree. Cream the butter with 100g of the golden syrup then mix in the beaten eggs.

Heat the milk until it is almost boiling. Stir in the bicarb then beat this into the creamed mixture. Stir in the dates then fold in the flour and salt to give a fairly runny mix.

Heat the remaining golden syrup (for the puddings) with 50ml of water in a heavy based pan. Pour this into the moulds then spoon in the pudding mixture on top. Bake for 15 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.

To make the sauce, simmer the golden syrup and salt for sauce in a pan. Slowly whisk in the cream and simmer for 5 mins. Turn out the puddings, drizzle over the sauce and serve with ice cream or creme fraiche.

This mixture can also be used to make a large pudding in a 1 litre bowl basin, which needs to be baked for 30 mins.

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