Our 10 best date recipes

A fist­ful of dates will add a tof­fee-like tex­ture to any num­ber of dishes. Drop them into your break­fast smoothie, stir them into your cakes or dot them across a sim­ple pizza

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page -

1 SWEET POTATO PIZZA WITH DATES, GREEN CHILLI AND FETA (ON THE COVER)

Dates bring that sat­is­fy­ing sweet­ness you get from caramelis­ing onions, with­out any of the faff, and com­ple­ment beau­ti­fully the tangy savoury notes of the feta. This recipe makes more sauce than you will need.

Makes 1

1 pizza base 50g sweet potato, cut into chunks 30g feta, crum­bled 2 dates, pit­ted and chopped length­ways 1 green chilli, de­seeded and chopped Olive oil Salt and black pep­per

For the sauce

1 tbsp olive oil, for fry­ing 1 gar­lic clove, finely chopped 500g pas­sata ½ tsp salt ½ tbsp sugar Black pep­per A hand­ful of basil, chopped

1 Heat the oven to 240C/475F/gas mark 9. First, make the sauce. Fry the gar­lic in the olive oil over a medium-high heat, tak­ing care not to let it brown. Add the pas­sata, salt, sugar, black pep­per and basil. Turn the heat down low, then sim­mer for 20 min­utes.

2 Ar­range the sweet potato in a sin­gle layer on a small oven tray, sea­son and add a splash of olive oil. Roast in the hot oven for around 25-30 min­utes un­til soft and the edges have turned brown. Re­move from the oven and crush gen­tly with a fork. Set aside.

3 Put your pizza base on a tray and spoon over around 3 tbsp of the sauce. Use the back of the spoon to spread it all over the base, but avoid­ing the outer edge. Add the sweet potato pieces, crum­ble on some feta and scat­ter the dates and chillies evenly across the pizza.

4 Bake for 5-7 min­utes, or un­til the crust is golden brown. Serve im­me­di­ately. Kris­tian Ta­pan­i­naho, uk.uuni.net

2 DATE, MACADAMIA NUT AND MAPLE GRA­NOLA

This lux­u­ri­ous morn­ing ce­real con­ceals nuggets of chopped-up dates that im­part a rich, hon­eyed depth to ev­ery mouth­ful.

Makes 875g

50g un­salted but­ter 150ml maple syrup 1 tsp vanilla ex­tract A pinch of salt 125g macadamia nuts 300g jumbo rolled oats Zest of 1 or­ange 200g dates, pit­ted and roughly chopped

1 Set the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Stir the but­ter, maple syrup, vanilla ex­tract and salt in a saucepan, over a low heat un­til the but­ter has com­pletely melted, then set aside.

2 Roughly chop the macadamias, vary­ing the con­sis­tency so that some of the nuts have been com­pletely pul­verised while oth­ers are in large chunks.

3 Put the chopped nuts in a large mix­ing bowl along with the oats and or­ange zest, then pour the liq­uid in­gre­di­ents over the top. Mix un­til ev­ery­thing has been coated well.

4 Spread out the gra­nola on a large greased bak­ing tray and bake for 30 min­utes, tak­ing the tray out ev­ery 10 min­utes to break up the gra­nola pieces.

5 Stir in the dates, then bake for a fi­nal 10 min­utes. Leave to cool on the bak­ing tray, then pour the gra­nola into an air­tight con­tainer where it will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Georgina Hart­ley, fromthe­larder.co.uk

3 DATE, PIS­TA­CHIO AND CO­CONUT BREAK­FAST BARS

Med­jool dates lend a soft, fudgy flavour to th­ese nut and fruit bars. They store in an air­tight con­tainer for up to a month.

Makes 10

250g med­jool dates, pit­ted 80g shelled pis­ta­chios 25g rolled oats 1 tbsp honey 1 tbsp wa­ter 60g des­ic­cated co­conut

1 Blitz the dates in a food pro­ces­sor un­til they have formed a rough paste. Add the shelled pis­ta­chios, oats, honey, wa­ter and around half of the des­ic­cated co­conut. Blend again un­til thor­oughly mixed.

2 Tip the mix out of the blen­der on to your work sur­face and roll it into a rec­tan­gle about 2cm thick. Cut the rec­tan­gle into 10 equal bars. Put the re­main­ing des­ic­cated co­conut into a tub or plate, then roll the bars around in it one at a time un­til they have all been evenly coated with co­conut.

Tom Hunt, toms­feast.com

4 DATE SMOOTHIE

A dairy-free break­fast drink, sweet­ened with dates and ba­nana. You can ad­just the thick­ness of the smoothie to your lik­ing by vary­ing the amount of wa­ter.

Makes 1

1 tsp chia seeds 1 tbsp blanched al­monds 2 dates, pit­ted 1 ba­nana 1 tsp co­conut oil (op­tional) 200ml wa­ter

1 Blitz the chia seeds and al­monds in a blen­der. Add the dates and blitz again, then add the ba­nana and blitz again. Fi­nally, pour in the co­conut oil (if us­ing) and roughly one third of the wa­ter. The tex­ture will change ac­cord­ing to the size of your ba­nana, so keep adding more wa­ter un­til you achieve the thick­ness of smoothie that you like. Serve im­me­di­ately. Thomasina Miers, wa­haca.co.uk

5 DATE AND BA­NANA CAKE WITH CARAMEL IC­ING

The dates in this cake el­e­vate a hum­ble ba­nana loaf into some­thing al­to­gether more moist, rich and deca­dent.

Serves 8-10

250g caster sugar 4 eggs 250g rape­seed oil 3 ripe ba­nanas 1 tsp vanilla ex­tract 1 tbsp cin­na­mon 250g plain flour ½ tsp bi­car­bon­ate of soda ½ tsp salt 200g dates, pit­ted and roughly chopped

For the ic­ing

120g but­ter 2 tbsp milk 220g de­mer­ara sugar 160g ic­ing sugar 70g dates, roughly chopped 50g flaked al­monds

1 Pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Blitz the caster sugar, eggs, oil, ripe ba­nanas, vanilla and cin­na­mon with ei­ther a hand blen­der or food pro­ces­sor to pro­duce a light bat­ter.

2 Sieve to­gether the flour, bi­carb and salt, then add it to the bat­ter, along with the chopped dates. Beat the mix re­ally well, un­til there are no vis­i­ble lumps.

3 Pour the cake mix into a lined 30cm-square tin and bake for 45-60 min­utes, or un­til a skewer in­serted in the cen­tre comes out clean.

4 Re­move the cake from the oven and set aside to cool. Mean­while, make the ic­ing. Bring the but­ter, milk and sugar to the boil, re­duce the heat and sim­mer for 2 min­utes.

5 Take the pan off the heat, al­low to cool a lit­tle, then beat in the ic­ing sugar. Add a splash of milk if the mix­ture is too thick – it needs to be just pourable. Pour the ic­ing on to the cake im­me­di­ately and spread evenly. Sprin­kle with the re­main­ing chopped dates and flaked al­monds and put in a cool place so that the ic­ing sets. Slice and serve.

Alex Bluett, friskafood.com

6 ROASTED CAR­ROTS WITH DATES

The roast­ing in­ten­si­fies and mar­ries the flavours of this sweet, spicy side dish. The in­gre­di­ents call for gin­ger juice, which you can make your­self by grat­ing fresh root gin­ger and press­ing the pulp against a metal sieve to col­lect the juice.

Serves 4

6 car­rots, peeled and cut into 5cm ba­tons 2–3 tbsp olive oil Salt and black pep­per 1½ tsp garam masala ⅓ tsp ground cin­na­mon

⅓ tsp chilli pow­der 1½ tsp gin­ger juice 3–4 mej­dool dates, chopped

1 Pre­heat the oven to 210C/425F/gas mark 7. Toss the car­rots with the oil, sea­son­ing, ground spices and gin­ger juice, then place on a bak­ing tray in the mid­dle of the oven. Roast for 20–22 min­utes or un­til done. Stir in the dates and serve. An­jum Anand, An­jum’s Quick and Easy In­dian (Quadrille)

7 ROASTED CAU­LI­FLOWER, CIN­NA­MON, POMEGRANATE AND FRESH DATE SALAD

Tof­fee-like chopped dates jos­tle for pri­macy with picked herbs, crunchy and roasted veg and pomegranate seeds in this ex­u­ber­ant salad.

Serves 4-6

2 cau­li­flower heads, cut into flo­rets 75ml rape­seed oil Salt and black pep­per

For the dress­ing

75ml rape­seed oil 2 tbls pomegranate mo­lasses 2 tbsp honey ½ tsp ground cin­na­mon ½ lemon juiced 1 gar­lic clove, finely chopped Salt and black pep­per

For the salad

150g dates, pit­ted and cut into quar­ters 2 cel­ery stalks, thinly sliced 1 small rhubarb stalk, thinly sliced ½ small red onion, thinly sliced A hand­ful of mixed baby leaves 2 tbsp chopped dill 2 tbsp chopped pars­ley 2 tbsp chopped co­rian­der 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds Salt and black pep­per Mixed toasted nuts or seeds, to gar­nish (op­tional)

1 Heat the oven to 220C/450F/gas mark 8. In a bowl, toss the flo­rets with the oil and sea­son well. Put on to a bak­ing tray and roast for 6-8 min­utes un­til the cau­li­flower has browned, but still has some bite to it. Set aside to cool.

2 Add all the dress­ing in­gre­di­ents to a mix­ing bowl and whisk un­til well com­bined. Sea­son to taste.

3 To as­sem­ble the salad, put the re­main­ing in­gre­di­ents in a large mix­ing bowl with the cau­li­flower and any of the juices from the tray. Toss to­gether with the dress­ing and check the sea­son­ing. Gar­nish with toasted mixed nuts or seeds, if you fancy, and serve. Tom Cat­ley, bonapeti.com

8 DATE PAIN PERDU

This steam­ing, creamy, boozy and fruity pud­ding is an ab­so­lute cinch to pre­pare and is guar­an­teed to bring a rosy glow to your table­mates.

Serves 4-6

200g dates, pit­ted and chopped 100g raisins 75ml dark rum 12 slices of white bread (or brioche) 400ml vanilla creme anglaise

1 Put the dates, raisins and rum into a small saucepan, then fill with wa­ter un­til the dates are about 1cm be­neath the sur­face.

2 Cook over a low-medium heat un­til the fruit has be­come re­ally soft and the wa­ter has evap­o­rated, then blitz ev­ery­thing into a fine puree us­ing a stick blen­der.

3 Let the mix­ture cool, then spread it over each slice of bread.

4 Line a 1 litre loaf tin with cling­film, so it hangs over the edge. Press two or three pieces of bread into the bot­tom of the tin (date side up). Line the sides of the tin with bread too. Pour over some of the creme anglaise. Con­tinue lay­er­ing with bread and creme anglaise un­til the tin is full. Press it all down and re­frig­er­ate for a few hours, or un­til the bread has soaked up all of the creme anglaise.

5 Once set, use the over­hang­ing cling­film to lift the pud­ding out of its mould, then cut it into thick slices. Pan fry them in but­ter un­til golden and crispy on all sides.

Olia Her­cules, oli­a­her­cules.com

9 DATE LIQUOR AND LAMB

Pulsed dates, tamarind, fresh gin­ger, black car­damom and cin­na­mon in­fuse this suc­cu­lent, slow-cooked stew with an in­tic­ing flavour. Serve along­side sauteed chard flavoured with mus­tard seeds, lemon and chopped chilli, plus a heap of steam­ing rice.

Serves 6

100ml sun­flower oil 2 onions, finely sliced 2 gar­lic cloves, crushed 1 cin­na­mon stick 3 black car­damom pods 1 tbsp ground co­rian­der 1kg stew­ing lamb A pinch of saf­fron ⅓ tsp cayenne pep­per 1 tbsp lemon juice A hand­ful of fresh mint leaves, chopped

For the stew­ing liquor

200g dates, pit­ted 400ml wa­ter 1 tsp tamarind con­cen­trate 25g gin­ger, peeled and chopped

1 Take all the stew­ing liquor in­gre­di­ents and pulse in a blen­der un­til you have a loose, jammy con­sis­tency, then set aside.

2 In a large casse­role, heat the oil over a medium tem­per­a­ture and slide in the onions, gar­lic, cin­na­mon and black car­damom, cooking un­til the in­gre­di­ents have tanned and the pot is smelling fra­grant. Sprin­kle in the ground co­rian­der and coat all the in­gre­di­ents for a minute or two, then pop in the lamb, stir­ring well. Brown the meat, then re­duce the heat a lit­tle to a medium-low tem­per­a­ture, cover and cook for 30 min­utes, leav­ing the lamb to re­lax in its juices.

3 Mean­while, mix the saf­fron and cayenne pep­per in a small bowl with 1 tbsp of hot wa­ter. Let it stand for 5 min­utes, then strain it into the pot. Spoon in the stew­ing liquor, stir well, cover and cook for an hour, or un­til the lamb is ten­der and fall­ing apart. Be­fore serv­ing, squish in the lemon juice and stir in the mint leaves for a fi­nal flour­ish.

Ivor Peters, ur­ban­ra­jah.com

10 DATE, CO­CONUT AND CHILLI FLAT­BREAD

A win­ning trio of flavours: sweet dates, creamy, nutty co­conut and sharp flecks of chilli. Per­fect for dunk­ing in soup or mop­ping up juices as part of an In­dian feast.

Makes 8

400g strong white flour 7g sa­chet in­stant yeast 1 tbsp caster sugar 1 tsp salt 2 tbsp light flavoured oil, plus ex­tra for fry­ing

For the fill­ing

1 tbsp light flavoured oil 1 onion, finely chopped 1 gar­lic clove, finely chopped 2 green chillies, de­seeded and finely chopped 75g des­ic­cated co­conut 100g dates, pit­ted and roughly chopped

1 Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl, then stir to com­bine. Pour in the oil, then add 250-300ml tepid wa­ter. Bring to­gether to form a soft dough. Tip out on to a lightly floured sur­face and knead for 10 min­utes, un­til smooth and elas­tic.

2 Put the dough in a bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or un­til it has roughly dou­bled in size.

3 Mean­while, make the fill­ing. Heat the oil in a large fry­ing pan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook for 5 min­utes un­til golden and soft­ened. Add the gar­lic and chilli, then con­tinue to cook for 1 minute. Add the co­conut and stir to coat in the onion and chilli. Re­move from the heat and al­low to cool.

4 Once the dough has risen, punch it to re­move any air, then divide it into 8 equal pieces. On a floured sur­face, roll each piece into a cir­cle. Place one eighth of the fill­ing in the cen­tre of each cir­cle, gather up the sides and twist the edges to close. Flip the parcels over so the twisted edge is on the un­der­side. Re-roll the dough un­til each piece is about 15cm in di­am­e­ter. Set aside.

5 Heat a large fry­ing pan over a medium-high heat, add a drop of oil, swirl around the hot pan and tip out any ex­cess. Fry the flat­breads for 2-3 min­utes on each side, un­til large air bub­bles ap­pear, and the bread is a lit­tle charred in places and cooked through. Al­low to cool for a few min­utes be­fore serv­ing. Rosie Reynolds, rosiereynolds.co.uk

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