Stone and chop the dates quite small, put them in a bowl, then pour the boiling water over. Leave for about 30 mins until cool and well-soaked, then mash a bit with a fork. Stir in the vanilla extract. Butter and flour seven mini pudding tins (each about 200ml/7fl oz) and sit them on a baking sheet. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.