2 cups pitted dates, finely sliced
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Cooking oil spray, for greasing
100g unsalted butter, chopped, softened
¾ cup caster sugar
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
½ cup almond meal
1 tsp mixed spice
825g pear halves in syrup, drained
Toasted flaked almonds, to garnish
Vanilla ice-cream, to serve
300ml thickened cream
150g unsalted butter, chopped
1 cup brown sugar
Combine sliced dates and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil, then turn off heat. Immediately stir in bicarb, letting mixture foam slightly. Set aside for 15 minutes to cool.
Preheat oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). Grease a 30 x 20 x 4cm baking tray with spray oil, and line base and sides with baking paper.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar with whisk attachment, until light in colour. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour, almond meal and mixed spice, then stir in cooled date paste until well combined. Spoon batter into prepared tray. Smooth surface.
Slice pear halves lengthways to create 2 faces of pear, keeping the natural shape of the pear intact. Pat dry with paper towel.
Arrange pears on top of the batter in a single layer, slightly pushing down into the batter. Bake for 45 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Set aside in tin to cool slightly.
To make butterscotch sauce, put ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves and butter has melted, then increase to medium heat, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove sauce from heat and set aside for 1 minute to let bubbles subside. Pour ¼ cup of hot sauce over warm pudding.
Slice pudding and scatter with almonds. Serve with ice-cream, and remaining butterscotch sauce on the side to add as desired.