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Preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5. Line a cake tin or baking dish (about 18-20cm) with baking paper.
Add the chopped dates, soya drink and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 minutes or until the dates are soft.
Stir in the bicarbonate of soda then remove from the heat. The mixture should foam, turn slightly green then return to a dark colour.
Blend the date mixture (with a stick blender or beating thoroughly by hand) to create a paste-like consistency. Set aside to cool slightly.
Beat together the dairy-free spread, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled date mixture then sieve in the flour and spices. Fold together until smooth and fully combined.
Roughly chop 100g of the toasted pecans and stir through the pudding batter.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes until firm to the touch. Check the pudding is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre of the sponge, it should come out cleanly (no batter on the skewer). If not, return to the oven for 5 minutes and check again.
To make the pear toffee sauce:
Melt the dairy-free spread in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the chopped pears and cook for 2-3 minutes until just starting to soften.
Add both sugars and bring to the boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes until beginning to turn a rich golden colour.
Remove from the heat and stir in the soya plant based alternative to cream and vanilla extract until smooth. Keep warm or can be made ahead and set aside until just before the pudding comes out of the oven.
To finish and serve:
Towards the end of the pudding cooking time, gently reheat the toffee sauce if needed then stir through the pinch of salt and remaining 150g whole toasted pecans.
As soon as the pudding is ready, remove the tin from the oven and poke small holes all over the sponge with a skewer. Pour half the hot pear toffee sauce all over the top of the hot pudding, letting it soak into the holes. Set aside for a few minutes for the sauce to fully soak into the sponge.
Serve slices of the sponge with the remaining toffee sauce and extra cream alternative to pour over.