Make a date

04 Sep 2014
POSTED BY Y Magazine

Steeped in tradition, dates have formed a staple part of the Omani diet for hundreds of years. Still popular, they’re now used in cakes and sweets as a healthy replacement for sugar. Ailish Fleming cooks up some ideas for you



Dates are hugely popular in Oman and no wonder – more than 75 per cent of the area dedicated to tree growth is for cultivation of date palms. Traditionally served with coffee when welcoming guests, or as a dessert, dates also have a high vitamin content and were used to protect the first Omani sailors from scurvy. In more recent times though, the humble fruit has been elevated to the realms of haute cuisine, featuring on the menus of high-end, fine-dining restaurants.

With the date harvest drawing to an end this month these tiny treats are currently in abundance. As a baker, I know that these little gems can add something different to a dish. Here’s the lowdown on the Omani date:

Full of fibre

They may be high in sugar, but unlike their refined counterparts, dates also contain a huge amount of fibre. Essential for a healthy diet, fibre plays an important part in our digestive health. Long story short, it’s the key to keeping you regular.

All your vitamins and minerals

Dates pack a powerful punch in nutritional content. Potassium, magnesium, niacin, vitamin B6; the list goes on. In fact, dates contain about 20 essential vitamins and minerals you might struggle to find elsewhere.

Sweeter than sugar

These little gems are the Middle East’s sweetest natural treat and a fantastic replacement for sugar. Due to their low glycemic index, dates don’t elevate your blood sugar levels the way normal sugar does. This means you won’t suffer from an energy slump and reach for the snack draw soon after. Eaten as they are with a cup of tea or incorporated into your other meals, there are many ways to make dates part of your diet.

Check out the recipes below for a simple date paste that can be used to make a beautiful banana, date and walnut cake. Alternatively, you could add the paste to your morning porridge, or have it with a bowl of natural yoghurt – the possibilities are endless.

Date Paste

Ingredients 

  • 40g pitted dates
  • 2 tbsp water

Method

  1. De-stone the dates and soak them in warm water until soft.
  2. Drain and place the dates in a food processor.
  3. Add 2 tbsp of water and blend until smooth and creamy.

Mix your paste with some gorgeously sweet Salalah bananas to create this banana, date and walnut cake. Tried and tested at the Y office, we’ve enjoyed more than a few slices.

Banana, date and walnut cake

dates-2

Ingredients

  • 175g butter
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 75g sugar
  • 3 tbsp date paste
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 100 chopped dates
  • 350g bananas (weighed in their skins)
  • 50g walnuts

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan.
  2. Grease and line an 18-inch cake tin.
  3. Pit and chop the dates.
  4. Place the eggs, butter, flour, sugar, cinnamon and date paste in a large bowl and beat until light and creamy. The batter should become paler.
  5. Mash the bananas and chop the walnuts.
  6. Add the bananas, dates and walnuts to the mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
  7. Spoon the mix into a cake tin and level off.
  8. Bake for 40–50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack. It will break easily when moist, so don’t be tempted to move it too soon.

For the date glaze

Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • 2 tbsp date paste
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 50g walnuts

Method

  1. Heat all the ingredients except the walnuts in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble for about a minute until it has thickened slightly.
  3. Stir in the walnuts and remove from the heat.
  4. Allow it to cool for a couple of minutes before pouring over the cake.

Adapted from BBC Good Food


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