225ml/8fl oz hot milk
100ml/3½fl oz rum
150ml/¼pt sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
3 eggs, beaten with a fork
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g/9oz self-raising flour
175g/6oz soft light muscovado sugar
crème fraîche, to serve
FOR THE SAUCE
140g/5oz salted butter
140g/5oz soft light muscovado sugar
300ml/½pt double cream
50ml/2fl oz rum
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Mix the dates with the hot milk and set aside for 20 mins. Mix the raisins with the rum and do the same. Grease 9 dariole or small pudding moulds and sit them in a deep roasting tin or baking dish. Put the kettle on.
Whizz the dates and milk together in a food processor until you have a smooth purée, then scrape into a large bowl and mix with the oil and eggs, before stirring in the bicarbonate of soda, flour and sugar. Finally fold in the rum-soaked raisins and any rum left in the bowl. Divide between the darioles, then carefully pour boiling water into the tin or dish so it comes two-thirds to halfway up the sides of the darioles. Bake for 20-25 mins on a low shelf in the oven.
Check the puds are done with a skewer, then lift out and cool a little. For the sauce melt the butter, sugar and cream together, then turn up the heat until it bubbles and comes together into a smooth, shiny sauce. Stir in the rum and raisins and cool. Turn out the puddings from the moulds, scraping around the sides of each with a blunt cutlery knife first. Line up in a shallow baking dish and cover with cling film. Keep the puds and sauce somewhere cool for up to 24 hrs.
To serve spoon a little sauce and raisins over each pud, then pour the rest around (if the sauce has separated a little just gently reheat and stir back together). Cover the whole dish with a tent of foil. When the Christmas dinner is ready turn the oven down to 120C/100C fan/gas ¼ and reheat puddings for about 30-40 mins until hot. Serve with crème fraîche