DATES are not only a favourite accompaniment on the table during Ramadan, it is also a versatile fruit that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
There is a common misconception that dates, derived from the Phoenix dactylifera (date palm), can only be used in desserts because of its sweet, rich texture.
Dates also provide a pleasant earthy flavour to savoury dishes such as couscous, hummus, spreads, salads, fried rice and chutneys, for example.
Because they are naturally very sweet, it makes for a great alternative to sugar, especially in breakfast smoothies, cookies and cakes.
Like the stuffed gourmet dates you see in high-end stores, it costs much less to make them on your own where you can experiment with the stuffing.
Here are 10 date-inspired recipes for Ramadan. Feel free to tweak them and get creative with your own ingredients.
Date, Coconut and Cashewnut Smoothie (Serves 2)
Smoothies are excellent for sahur (pre-dawn meal), as they are nutritious and filling. You just need a blender and can play around by adding fruits and nuts.
3 dates, pitted
1 tablespoon desiccated coconut
A pinch of salt
100ml coconut milk
100ml low fat milk
1 cup ice cubes
·Place all the ingredients in a blender and whip until smooth.
Vegetarian Couscous with Dates (Serves 4)
Couscous (tiny granules made from steamed and dried durum wheat) is great to replace rice and pasta for sahur or iftar (breaking fast). It is so versatile that you can add a host of accompaniments from nuts and fruits to vegetables as well as meat.
2 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
5 dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup raisins
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Juice of half a lemon
2 tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 sprigs coriander leaves (optional)
1/2 cup feta cheese
·Soak the couscous in the broth until it fluffs up. Use a fork to loosen the couscous. Set aside.
·In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium fire and add the garlic and onions. Saute until fragrant for about five minutes.
·Add the couscous and stir until well coated with the onions/garlic for about four minutes. Be careful not to burn it.
·Throw in the dates, raisins, salt and pepper and combine. Add the lemon juice and tomatoes. Mix well.
·Remove from heat and garnish with coriander and feta cheese.
Hazelnut Chocolate and Orange Peel Stuffed Dates (Serves 4)
This is one way to jazz up plain dates and serves as a great dessert on its own.
10 dates, pitted
1/4 cup orange peel/rind
Store-bought chocolate hazelnut Spread
·Arrange dates on a serving plate. Using a teaspoon, scoop just enough chocolate to fill the cavity of the dates.
·Place the orange peel on top of the chocolate-filled dates and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Coffee Chicken Sandwich with Goat Cheese, Date Spread (Serves 4)
Ground coffee, which serves as a dry rub for the chicken, provides an excellent smoky flavour. Together with the cheese date spread, it creates a nice balance with rustic sourdough bread.
4 raw chicken breasts
Sourdough bread, sliced and lightly toasted
Arugula (rocket) leaves
1/4 cup ground coffee beans
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
100gm goat cheese
4 dates, pitted, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lime zest, finely grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
·In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients for the rub until it becomes a paste. Take each chicken breast and coat with the coffee marinade. Place the well-coated chicken breasts on a separate plate, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for two to three hours. Preheat oven to 180°C and roast chicken in a tray lined with aluminium foil, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
— For the cheese spread: mash the goat cheese in another bowl and fold in the remaining ingredients until it resembles a spread.
— To assemble the sandwich: Place the arugula leaves on one side of the bread. Spread the cheese and arrange the roasted chicken and serve. You can even add sliced tomatoes.
Apple, Pecan and Date Crumble (Serves 5 to 6)
Unlike apple pie, this is much easier to make as you don’t have to deal with a pastry crust. A great comfort food dessert for any day of the week. The dates already provide sweetness, so you can reduce the amount of sugar according to preference.
1 1/2 cups plain or self raising flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
200gm chilled butter, cubed
4 large red apples, cored and cubed
Zest of one lemon
Juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecan nuts, roughly chopped
10 dates, pitted and chopped
·Preheat oven to 180°C. Coat a round baking tray or ovenproof dish with butter.
·In a large bowl, toss cubed apples with lemon zest, juice and cinnamon and mix well. Add the chopped nuts and dates. Transfer to a baking dish.
·For the crumble: Mix flour, sugar and chilled butter, using your hands until it resembles chunky breadcrumbs.
·Sprinkle the crumbs on top of the apples until everything is covered. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice-cream.
Apple, Dates and Cheddar Muffin — ANNA OLSON
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a jumbo six-muffin tin (or a regular 12-muffin tin).
Whisk together one egg, oil, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, one cup milk and one cup sugar.
In a separate bowl, sift one cup all-purpose flour, one cup whole wheat flour, one tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir into egg mixture.
Fold in one cup cheddar cheese (grated), one cup Granny Smith apples (peeled and diced) and 1/2 cup pitted dates (chopped). Bake for 30 minutes.
Combine two tablespoons cheddar with two tablespoon sugar and sprinkle on top of muffins during the last 10 minutes of baking.
Sticky Date Pudding Muffins — AMY BEH
Preheat oven to 180°C and lightly grease six muffin cups.
Combine 70gm chopped pitted dried dates and 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda with two tablespoons hot water in a small bowl for four-to-five minutes, then drain.
Place 70gm softened butter and 50gm brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy, then add two eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift in 65gm self-raising flour and stir in dates.
Fill muffin cups with batter until half full. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until cooked. Skewer should come clean when tested for doneness.
Date Loaf — AMY BEH
Put 250gm chopped dates in a bowl, pour in 170ml hot water and leave to soak for two to three hours. Line and grease a 25.5 x 15 x 7cm loaf tin. Preheat oven to 180°C. Put 175gm soft sugar into the date mixture. Stir until sugar has dissolved completely. Add in one lightly beaten egg and mix well.
Combine 75gm plain flour (sifted), 175gm wholemeal flour, one teaspoon ground mixed spices and four teaspoons baking powder in a mixing bowl and add into date mixture.Turn mixture into prepared tin. Sprinkle with one tablespoon Demerara sugar on the top. Bake in preheated oven for 1 1/4 hours.
Turn out loaf onto a wire rack to cool. Slice and serve with butter.
Fruit Chutney — AMY BEH
Chop coarsely 250gm Granny Smith apples (cored), 250gm mangoes and 250gm pitted dates. Combine all chopped fruits, 250gm sultanas, 250gm brown sugar and spices (one teaspoon ground ginger, one teaspoon paprika, one teaspoon salt) together in a mixing bowl. Stir in 500ml apple cider and mix well. Cover with cling film wrap and leave overnight.
Stir the chutney well several times. After 24 hours, spoon chutney into clean, dry jars.
Date Pudding in Cream Sauce — AMY BEH
You need five to six small soufflé moulds. Lightly grease soufflé moulds and preheat oven to 180°C. Put 8-9 pitted dates and 310ml water into a saucepan and bring to a boil, then add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence.
Once the mixture has come to a boil, remove from heat and add one teaspoon bicarbonate of soda. Cover the saucepan.
Beat 60gm butter and 100gm castor sugar until creamy. Add one teaspoon lemon rind and one teaspoon orange rind and then beat in two eggs one at a time.
Sift in 150gm plain flour and add in date mixture. Pour concoction into prepared moulds until two-thirds full. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes.
To make sauce, combine three tablespoons whipping cream, 60gm butter and 75gm soft brown sugar over low heat.
Stir for about five minutes or until slightly thick. Turn off heat.
When the pudding has baked for 20 minutes, pour about half a tablespoon of the sauce onto each pudding and continue to bake for five to six minutes.
Remove puddings from their moulds on to individual serving plates and add a little more sauce if desired.
For more recipes, go to kuali.com.