Ramadan whizzed past us this year and if your house is anything like mine you might find yourself with boxes of dates leftover from the holy month. Dates are nutritious fruit, high in natural minerals like iron and magnesium which makes them great for blood and bone health. They contain natural sugars but have a low glycaemic score due to the fibre content which makes them the ideal snack for sustained energy release rather than a sugar high.
If you haven’t already been through your stash, and like me, are looking for delicious ways to use up your delectable dates, then read on to my five favourite recipes using leftover dates. What are your favourite date recipes? I’d love to hear from you and look forward to seeing you at the London Halal Food Festival!
1. Ottolenghi Date and Spinach Salad
This has got to be one of my favourite salad recipes of all time! Fans of Ottolenghi will know that he’s a bit of genius at combining unusual ingredients and textures to come up with the most delicious and healthy recipes. His salads are always colourful and particularly enjoyable in the summertime. This salad (from the JERUSALEM cookbook) recommends the use of Medjool dates.
There are several hundred varieties of dates but Medjools are extremely popular for their luscious size, soft texture and rich flavour. They originate from Morocco and are one of the only variety of date that are considered to be fresh fruit. Although they can be dried, Medjools are best eaten straight off the palm!
Ingredients (serves 4):
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
100g pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthways
30g unsalted butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 small pitas, about 100g, roughly torn into 4cm pieces
75g whole unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
2 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
150g baby spinach leaves, washed
2 tablespoon lemon juice
Put the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain away any residual vinegar and discard.
Meanwhile, heat the butter and half of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the pita and almonds and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring all of the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside to cool.
When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.
2. Martha Stewart’s Spiced rack of Lamb and Herbed rice with dates and pomegranate
This is a dinner party WOW moment… A recipe that will surely impress your guests. The lamb speaks for itself but I am always looking for ways to change the boring basmati into something more spectacular. Martha recommends Zahidi dates for this recipe. The golden date has a buttery nutty texture and is rich in potassium and anti-oxidants. The lower sugar content means that it is ideal to use in savoury cooking.
As we are focusing on the date, I have included the link for the lamb recipe here and below are the easy steps for jazzing up a plain platter of white rice.
Ingredients (Serves 6):
1 cup basmati rice
1 1/4-inch-thick slice peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
1/3 cup pistachios, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
6 large soft dates, such as zahidi, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Bring rice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, ginger, and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until all of water is absorbed, 16 to 17 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Fluff with fork. Remove and discard ginger.
Transfer rice to a large bowl; let cool 5 minutes. Stir in dill, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, dates, oil, and lemon juice. Season with salt and serve.
3. Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Toffee Pudding
My homage to the humble date would not be complete without a dessert recipe. Probably the only British dish that springs to mind for its use of dates is the classic sticky toffee pudding. For this dessert, I would recommend Halawi dates for their sweet caramel taste and buttery consistency.
225g fresh dates , stoned
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
85 g unsalted butter , softened
170g caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs
170g self-raising flour
¼ teaspoon ground mixed spice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons Ovaltine
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
FOR THE TOFFEE SAUCE
115g unsalted butter
115g light muscovado sugar
140ml double cream
Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Put the dates in a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and cover with 200ml/7fl oz of boiling water. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes to soften, then drain. Whiz the dates in a food processor until you have a purée. Meanwhile, cream your butter and sugar until pale using a wooden spoon, and add the eggs, flour, mixed spice, cinnamon and Ovaltine. Mix together well, then fold in the yoghurt and your puréed dates. Pour into a buttered, ovenproof dish and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
While the pudding is cooking, make the toffee sauce by putting the butter, sugar and cream in a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce has thickened and darkened in colour. To serve, spoon out the pudding at the table and pour over the toffee sauce.