or: "Well, we all have to go sometime. Given the choice, this is how I want to go."

I remember when my mum bought our family's first microwave oven. It was quite an event. I must have been about 10 years old, so we are talking late 70s - quite the newfangled appliance for a small English village in those days. The microwave was of monstrous proportions and looked positively prehistoric by today's standards but had the saving grace of being delivered with a superb recipe book into which mum dipped to feed us with minimum fuss and maximum speed for many years. One day, she tried a chocolate pudding recipe which on paper didn't sound particularly special but was to achieve cult status in our household.

A dense sponge, surrounded by a thick hot chocolate sauce, served with plenty of single cream... one of those desserts you know, as soon as you have tasted the first spoonful, that you will want seconds. The pudding is so rich, though, that seconds are decidedly dangerous. Which is how my sister hit upon the perfect name for this new family favourite.

Let me explain. Around that time, my mum decided we needed more books in the house and started collecting the complete works of various authors, and we were taking it in turns to read the latest addition to the bookshelves, which was Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced. For those of you not familiar with the storyline, here's the lowdown. And for those who are about my age and therefore have forgotten it, let me refresh your memory.

The story is set in Chipping Cleghorn, a quaint English village, populated by Agatha Chrisitie stereotypes. The story starts one Friday, and we are taken to visit each of the villagers in turn as they read the local weekly newspaper over breakfast where they each spot the following ad in the personal column:

A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th at Little Paddocks at 6.30 pm. Friends please accept this, the only intimation.

Well, of course they all plan to attend, some shocked, some curious, some outraged but most suspecting some kind of murder mystery party. The owner of Little Paddocks, however, is not at all impressed when she reads the ad.

"Patrick, is this your idea?"

"No, indeed, Aunt Letty. Whatever put that idea into your head? Why should I know anything about it?"

"I wouldn't put it past you," said Miss Blacklock grimly.

(...)

Miss Blacklock said slowly, "I suppose it's some silly sort of hoax."

"But why?" Dora Bunner exclaimed. "What's the point of it? It seems a very stupid sort of joke. And in very bad taste."

(...)

"It says today," pointed out Miss Bunner. "Today at 6.30 pm. What do you think is going to happen?"

"Death!" said Patrick in sepuchral tones. "Delicious Death."

"Be quiet, Patrick," said Miss Blacklock as Miss Bonner gave a little yelp.

"I only meant the special cake that Mitzi makes," said Patrick apologetically.

And so the pudding was christened Delicious Death.

As with all my recipes, this was initially altered slightly each time I made it, in search of the ultimate taste and texture sensation. I hereby present you with what I consider to be the definitive version. Cinnamon and chocolate make a divine combination, they really do bring out the best in each other, and the Muscovado sugar lends a note of caramel to the sauce. Guaranteed to ingratiate you with your dinner guests!

Serves 4. Measurements in Imperial, please consult the Everything Kitchen Conversion Table for metric equivalents.

Equipment:

Measuring spoons
Measuring jug (microwave-safe)
Large mixing bowl
Large (2 ½ pint) microwave-safe pudding basin (you will be serving the pudding in this, so if you have a pretty one, so much the better)
Hand whisk

Ingredients:

for the pudding:
4oz self-raising flour
4oz golden caster sugar
pinch salt
1oz cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 oz butter
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp milk

for the sauce:
4oz Muscovado sugar
1oz cocoa powder
pinch ground vanilla
¼ pint water

Preparation:

First, the pudding.
Put the flour, sugar, salt, cocoa and cinnamon into the mixing bowl.
Melt the butter in a small basin on MEDIUM for 45 seconds.
Add the butter to the dry ingredients, along with the egg and milk. Beat well.
Pour this batter into the lightly greased 2½ pint basin and level off with a spoon.
Now for the sauce.
Mix together the Muscovado sugar, cocoa and powdered vanilla in a basin and sprinkle on top of sponge mixture. Level off.
Heat the water for 30 seconds on HIGH and pour over the sugar-cocoa-vanilla mixture.
Cook on HIGH for 4-4½ minutes or until you have a firm sponge surrounded by a lake of thick sauce.
Serve from the basin with a large jug of single cream.
A note on microwave power and timings. This is all based on a 750watt microwave. Adjust the timing to suit your model. If you aren't sure how long to cook it for in your microwave, I suggest you undercook, leave it to stand for a few minutes, check it, then put it back in for 2 minutes at a time until it's done.

It doesn't get easier than that, does it?

Enjoy!

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