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Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Pour 300ml boiling water over the chopped dates and set aside. Butter a 1.4-litre pudding basin and put a disc of baking parchment in the base. Put the butter, sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and eggs into a large bowl, then beat with an electric hand whisk until really well blended. Add the cooled date mixture, then beat again to make a sloppy batter.
Stir in the fruits, nuts and ginger, then pour into the pudding basin and place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 1 hr, cover the top lightly with foil, then return to the oven for 25 mins more until a skewer inserted into the pudding comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make the brandy syrup. Put the sugar and 50ml water in a pan and stir over the heat until syrupy. Stir in the brandy and remove from the heat. When the pudding is ready, remove from the oven and push a skewer into it in several places. Pour over the brandy syrup so it soaks into the pudding, then cover until ready to serve.
Turn out onto a plate, scatter with the pecans and top with the holly sprig, dusted with icing sugar. Serve with good-quality vanilla ice cream.