Butter a 5-cup pudding basin (china bowl). Sift flour, a pinch of salt and mixed spice into a bowl. Rub in butter and stir in breadcrumbs, sugar, dates and lemon zest.
Whisk eggs with golden syrup and milk, then tip into the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Turn into prepared basin, then cover with greaseproof paper and tie with string (see Cook’s Tip). Transfer pudding to a large, deep (rather than wide) saucepan with a trivet or upturned saucer in the base and a good fitting lid. Fill pan with hot water to come about one-third of the way up the basin and cover with the lid. Bring water to the boil, then turn heat to lowest setting and gently steam pudding for 1½ hours. Top up with boiling water if water runs low.
When ready, remove pudding from pan, snip off string and remove paper. Cover pudding basin with a serving plate, invert and leave for 10 minutes to drop. Remove bowl. Serve with hot custard.
Covering the pudding with greaseproof paper prevents the steam from making it soggy and the string handle makes it easy to remove the hot pudding from the steaming water. Take a large piece of greaseproof paper, double thickness, and make a pleat in the middle. Open pleat and grease paper with butter to prevent it sticking. Refold pleat then put paper, buttered-side down, on the pudding basin. Tie a long double thickness piece of string around the rim of the pudding basin to hold the paper in place, then bring string over the top of the basin, loop it through string around the rim and tie in place to make a handle.
From Taste magazine, August 2010.