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.
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
For the date glaze
Adapted from BBC Good Food