Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Dates in your food diary

A Middle Eastern staple, glossy dates in a box stuck to a stem and dusted in sugar are a classic Christmas extra.

The fruit of a date palm or Tree of Life, dates keep well for several months (which is just as well in many cases). Fresh and dried dates can look very similar and are both sweet and rich with a chewy, sticky texture.

Of the 350 or so varieties the Medjool date is known as the “king of dates” and was once reserved for Moroccan royalty and their guests. Medjool dates are deep amber-brown and have a slightly crinkly skin. They taste of toffee, wild honey and a hint of cinnamon.
Like many delicacies, Medjools are pricey because their cultivation is a complex and labour-intensive process.

Stuff them with walnuts for a snack or chop them into a bright winter salad with endive and orange segments; add dates to roasted butternut squash with cinnamon and toasted almonds, or make an apple, date and ginger chutney to go with a festive cheeseboard. The Leon cookbook has a recipe for a date and banana smoothie made with Greek yoghurt and string bark honey.

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