This is one of my all time favourite desserts. I was very pleased that after modifying my old sticky date pudding recipe that the gluten-free and lactose-free variety is still delicious - you can hardly notice the difference! More date-y than some other varieties I've tried, but absolutely rich and delicious and easy to make!
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and brush 8 250ml (1 cup) pudding/ramekin dishes with melted extra margarine until lightly - but fully - coated. Line the bases of the dishes with circles of baking paper.
Stir the bicarb soda through the dates in a medium saucepan. Stir through the water. Over medium-high heat bring to the boil (stirring only occasionally). When aromatic remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Beat the margarine, sugar, and vanilla together with electric beaters/mixer until very light and creamy. Add 1 egg and beat in well. Add 1 Tbsp of flour and beat in well. Repeat this process until 3 eggs and 3 Tbsp of flour have been added. Beat on high for 1 minute to aerate the mixture.
Gently fold through the remaining flour, walnuts, and date mixture and mix until well combined. Be careful to mix gently, using a cutting and lifting motion, rather than traditional stirring action (this will keep the puddings light).
Divide the mixture between the 8 ramekins and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until risen and firm to touch. While baking make the sauce.
To make the sauce, melt the margarine over low-medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved and melted. Raise the heat to medium and continue to stir vigorously until the sauce is just simmering and the margarine has combined with the sugar.
Add the vanilla essence to the milk. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the 110mls of milk in a slow stream until well combined.
Combine the cornflour and 1Tbsp of milk to form a thin paste. Return the sauce to low-medium heat and add the paste, stirring quickly to combine. Continue to stir the sauce vigorously (otherwise it will stick to the bottom of the pan) until it thickens and is ready to serve.
When the sauce is ready and the puddings are cooked prick several holes in each pudding and drizzle half of the sauce over the puddings. Return to the oven for 5-10minutes.
Loosen the sides of each pudding using a thin small knife and invert onto serving dishes. Serve with the remaining caramel sauce. ENJOY!
You can make one big pudding - you will need a large ceramic or glass pudding dish and the cooking time will be slightly longer (approximately 45 minutes) if it's a deep dish. All other steps stay the same.