Now I know I’ve gone on about being an untidy slattern before, and I was getting to the point where I’d resigned myself to my scruffy state. However, I reckoned without one of my über-clean and tidy friends.
‘What you need is the right tools’ she explained patiently.
‘Invest in the tools that will help you do the job efficiently and easily’.
I had no idea there was such science behind having the perfect house.
I got very excited by the ‘investing in the right tools’ theory that might change my life, and happily embarked upon some retail therapy. The price of this particular purchase did make me blink a little, but my friend’s evangelical voice spurred me on. When the sales assistant announced the sum required, I disguised my wince as a cough and played the music in my car really loud all the way home. I find that helps. Play something edgy like Ms Dynamite and you’ll soon have forgotten all your woes.
Friends, it was a steam cleaner. Not a housewife’s steam cleaner, but a big, powerful bad boy that made me stand a notch taller and thrust my pelvis a little. I felt the urge to recline over the handle, pat my machine nonchalantly and say,
'10 bar coming out of my hose, how about yours?’
I first started on the windows. I’ll tell you straight, they hadn’t been cleaned for a year or so – what? – and the difference was astounding. It took just a few minutes, and I realised that it is actually possible to see through the kitchen window. I had thought it was some sort of French frosted glass. I have happily used my steam cleaner for various tasks; it’s a boon when it comes to removing urine from car seats. Please, don’t ask me about it.
Then last week I thought I’d discovered a satellite function of the steam cleaner; insect removal. It’s Spring, and the first bit of sunshine brings them out; ants. I can’t stand them. I once left a Camembert out on the kitchen worktop for a few days to get it to that delicious, melting, ‘did someone die in here?’ stage. I came down one morning and the ants had carried it from one end of the work surface to the other, and were swarming all over my circle of happiness. They form part of the axis of insect evil.
So I was fairly horrified when I found they had invaded a corner of my house. Then the steam cleaner caught my eye. I was going to use my WMD on them. I took up position, and from a great height gently depressed the trigger.
You know I once went to a gun club in China. A wealthy Chinese man had chosen the ‘Terminator Option’ for the day, and I watched appalled as he turned a mounted machine gun on a tethered chicken. You can imagine the result. Yet fast forward 10 years and here I was - ack! ack! ack! ack! - all visible ants dead. (In fact it was more of a Psssssssssssssshht). I had a regretful look at the collateral damage - the landlord's wooden floor was looking a lot paler- and switched off the cleaner. 10 minutes later there were more ants. A few more times I laid waste to great swathes of ants, but they kept sending in reinforcements. Fearless ants, convinced of their mission, ready to die for their cause.
My eldest girl took control of the proceedings;
‘Ok, coming in at 2 o’clock, there Mum! Steady... behind you, lock on, NOW!’
She’s very excitable and I got caught up in her frenzied shouting, nearly sustaining a third degree burn to the foot. After an hour or so I was feeling a little dispirited as they just kept on coming. We were clearly overwhelmed, and retreated to a safe distance.
M cocked her head on one side,
‘Mum, I know this sounds a bit mad, but do you think by steaming them it makes them repeat themselves?’ she looked a bit sheepish as if I might laugh.
‘I think that’s a very sensible theory dear, they must be magic repeating ants’.
In the end we went with the squirty bottle and washing up liquid ploy that we learnt about on Google.
Yet even that wasn’t a magic cure, I had to repeatedly go back to the corner and squirt. I spent the evening trying out my sticky toffee pudding recipe. In between weighing, measuring, chopping and baking, I had to keep squirting the ants. I may have won the first battle, but I was close to losing the war. In the end I had to go nuclear on them; I found their nest and boiled them alive. It was not my finest moment.
Fortunately the pudding was a direct hit first time.
Steam Cleanin', Ant Killin' Sticky Toffee Pudding
(makes 6-8 puddings depending on which version and size of ramekin)
Bear with me on the cup measurements, I'm doing my best. All emails pointing out my errors gratefully received.
You know I don't have too much to say about this pudding - barring the usual 'mmm yum, get your chops round that' - but I would urge you to chop the dates finely. Simply because they look a little too much like cockroaches don't they? What with the ant thing going on in the lounge I was not feeling kindly disposed towards any insect brethren. I chopped my dates viciously, and very finely indeed.
1. Egg free, dairy free, gluten free version:
175g /1 ¼ cups (not pressed down) stoned dates
170ml boiling water / scant ¾ cup
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g / scant ½ cup dairy free spread150g / ¾ cup white sugar
2 heaped tsps 'no egg' egg replacer
4 tbsps rice milk
1 heaped tbsp ground linseeds (grind whole linseeds in your blender- peasy)
1 small pinch of xanthan gum100g / ¾ cup firmly packed brown rice flour
50g / scant ½ cup potato flour
25g / scant ¼ cup corn flour (corn starch)
½ tsp xanthan gum
1½ tsp gf baking powder2 tbsp rice milk
2. Egg free, dairy free with wheat flour version:
Use the first 11 ingredients listed in 1. above
Replace the gluten free flours with
175g / 1½ cups of white wheat flour
use 1½ tsps of baking powder
Omit the ½ tsp of xanthan gum
Use another 4-8 tbsps of rice milk
3. Gluten free with eggs version:
Use the first 7 ingredients listed in 1. above.
Replace the egg replacer, 4 tbsps rice milk, ground linseeds and pinch of xanthn gum with:
Use the gluten free flours, baking powder and xanthan gum as explained in 1. above
Use another 2-4 tbsps rice milk
For the sauce:
165g / 1 cup dairy free spread
165g / heaped ¾ cup demerara or dark brown muscovado sugar
30g / ¼ cup dairy free dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
2-4 tbsps grand marnier (optional)
- Grease 8, 9cm ramekins. Heat the oven to 170° Celsius
- Finely chop the dates (can you see that cockroach resemblance?) and put them into a mixing bowl
- Add the bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and vanilla extract
- Pour over the boiling water, stir well to combine and set aside
- If you are using 'no egg', put the 'no egg', 4 tbsps rice milk, ground linseeds and pinch of xanthan gum into a bowl and mix with a mini whisk to remove any lumps. Set aside
- Place the dairy free spread and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Beat together until they are incorporated
- Add either the 'no egg' mixture or the two real eggs and beat well
- If using GF flour, seive in the rice flour, potato flour, cornflour, xanthan gum and baking powder. Mix until combined. You may find the mix is too stiff at this point, in which case, add 2 tbsps rice milk and try again. Don't go overboard and add too much, you've still got the sloppy date mix to add, and we can sort the consistency out in a minute
- If using wheat flour, seive in the wheat flour and baking powder and mix to combine. See above bullet point if the mix is too stiff
- Add the date mixture and give it a good stir. At this point add the extra rice milk to give your mix a sloppy consistency. The GF/egg mix looks relatively sloppy at this point, but I would add the extra rice milk, I think the end result is better. You may find that with the egg free, dairy free, gluten free version the mix isn't really sloppy. Don't worry too much, it should be fine once cooked.
- I wonder how many more times I can write 'sloppy'?
- Divide the mix between your ramekins until they are all about ¾ full. Place them on a baking or pizza tray and put them in the oven
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, but all ovens are different, so keep a watchful eye. They are cooked when they are well risen, golden brown on top and an inserted skewer comes out clean. If the tops are browning too much and the middle is still gooey, cover the tray with tin foil until the middles are cooked
- With the exception of the Grand Marnier, place all the ingredients for the sauce into a large saucepan, now turn your attention back to the oven...
- When your darling puddings are cooked, remove from the oven and leave to stand whilst you quickly rustle up the sauce. Don't worry about your guests, they're chatting happily, and judging by the amount of red they've drunk, they're not going to notice if this pudding doesn't arrive for another hour
- Stirring continuously, heat the dairy free, sugar and chocolate over a low heat until melted. The sauce will thicken and bubble slightly. I do apologise if you're a sticky toffee pudding purist and you object to chocolate in the sauce, but in these times of milk allergies, we have to substitute that creamy, fatty taste somehow, and the result is yummylicious
- Turn off the heat, add the grand marnier if using, and set the sauce aside
- Now, run a knife around the edge of your puddings to dislodge them a bit, then upend them onto their serving plates
- Lean over them and inhale their steam
- Now drizzle/pour over the sauce and triumphantly carry the pudding through to your guests
- I suppose if you can tolerate cream you could serve this with a thick double cream, although the pudding is rich and satisfying without any additions. I personally don't think ice cream would go too well; the pud is so sweet I think it all might make your teeth ache.
- Pig in the Kitchen cannot be held responsible for dental fees, root canal horrors, or gingivitis
The pictured version of the pudding is egg free, dairy free, gluten free.
© Pig in the Kitchen