You need a large ovenproof pudding dish, or 2 pie plates. Grease or spray with nonstick spray.
Put the chopped dates in a bowl. Add the baking soda, and pour over the boiling water.
Stir to mix and leave to cool.
Cream together the butter and sugar until creamy (I use caster sugar, which, being fine, creams more easily). Add the beaten eggs and mix well.
Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt, then fold it into the creamed mixture.
Stir in the date mixture, and then the nuts. Fold in thoroughly.
Ladle into your prepared dish or pie plates, and put into oven. The baking time is approximately 50 minutes, but will depend on the dishes used. Test with a skewer, but a few crumbs will often adhere to the stick even when the pudding is done.
While it's baking, make the syrup.
Heat the sugar, butter and water together, stirring, until sugar has melted almost completely. Do not boil.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, salt and brandy.
When the pudding or pies come out of the oven, pour over the hot syrup. It will sink in slowly.
Serve hot or cold with ice cream, whipped cream or custard.