England’s disputed national treasure

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Since making the first pudding in 1984, the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Company has sold in excess of 10 million puds. What’s more, upwards of 1,000 are sold from across the shop’s counter every week. The secret sauce here is not only the atmospheric backdrop, but the unwavering reliance on local, organic ingredients.

“Big companies have asked us to make our puddings cheaper, but we won’t scrimp on ingredients,” said Holliday. “No margarine; real butter. No syrup; dark muscovado sugar. Eggs from down the road. Double cream from the local milkman.”

If I had learned one truth on my Cumbrian trip, it was that there is no such thing as too many puddings. Any eatery or inn in Cumbria has to be judged by its desserts, and one last outing took me north to the Cumbrian village of Grasmere and to The Yan, a converted 17th-Century farm bistro, which makes a great deal of its countryside comfort food. What better place to try my last sticky toffee pud?

Against stiff competition, chef Will Manley’s was a dessert worth daydreaming about. It was gooey and sickly sweet, but in a good way. Raisiny, batter-thick and drowning in toffee sauce. It demanded my full attention.

So, I raised my spoon, loosened a notch from my belt and, in the name of research, saluted this contentious, if enigmatic, prince of puddings.

Hidden Britain is a BBC Travel series that uncovers the most wonderful and curious of what Britain has to offer, by exploring quirky customs, feasting on unusual foods and unearthing mysteries from the past and present.

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