More Than One Date: 6 Ways to Enjoy the Fruit

Make the most of Ramzaan with these easy date recipes.

Suman Mahfuz Quazi

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think of healthy fruits, like dates during the month of Ramazan. The bite-sized fruit are synonymous with the Holy Month and a regular on iftar spreads at Muslim homes across the world. Scientifically, dates are perfect for breaking a day-long fast, considering they’re nutrient dense. Plus, they also offers small amounts of fat and protein. Dates are easily digested and helps restore the sugar levels in a food-and-water-deprived body quickly. 


But sans the nutritional angle, dates have a fair bit of religious and anecdotal significance for Muslims as well. When dates are the first thing one consumes to break their fast during Ramazan, it is regarded as auspicious. To be precise, it’s considered a sunnat – the body of literature comprising customs and traditions enlisted by Prophet Mohammed. In other words, sunnat is like a religious brownie point – not binding, but good. 


So, dates have become synonymous with Ramazan, flooding markets here in India and across the world, during this time of year. And while the prophet did prescribe breaking your fast with dates, he never asked to not get creative with it. With all this time at hand and our beloved iftar markets out of business, thanks to Covid-19 and the lockdown (which is going on and on like an Ekta Kapoor TV soap), we could all use a little imagination for Ramzan 2020. 


Here are a couple of fun and easy date recipes to begin with:

Dates and Jackfruit Dhonas  



“When I used to visit my grandmother in Someshwar, Ratnagiri, she’d treat me to jackfruit dhonas. There was a Muslim wada (residence) nearby, and I had befriended them. During Ramazan, I remember watching them eating dates. So, one day, I told my grandmother to add dates to the jackfruit dhonas and it came out real nice and gooey. I’ll never forget the first bite of that,” remembers chef Ameya Mahajani, Aromas Cafe and Bistro.


You’ll need:


Jackfruit - 300 grams 
Grated coconut - 150 grams 
Rawa/semolina - 200 grams 
Jaggery - 200 grams 
Elaichi powder - 8/10 grams 
Dates - 150 grams 
Almonds / cashew - 20 grams 
Raisin - 10/12 nos 
Salt to taste 


Method: 

  1. Roast the semolina till it is light brown. Cool and keep aside. 
  2. Clean the jackfruit, remove seeds, grind in a mixer and make a coarse pulp.
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the jackfruit pulp. Use the cut and fold method to mix the batter and keep it aerated. 
  4. Steam the cake for 20 to 25 minutes using the double boiler method. Or, bake it at 180 C for 30 minutes using a microwave oven. Insert a toothpick. If it comes out clean, then the cake is properly baked. 
  5. Enjoy with a tea or coffee.


Ma'amoul




Ma'amoul is a traditional Arab cookie with an ooey-gooey filling made of dates. Sometimes, it also features nuts, like pistachio, walnut, almond or even fig. “What I love about ma’amoul is that they’re not specific to any religion. You’d find them in Christian homes around Easter or Lent, where it is served dusted with powdered sugar alongside coffee or tea. Muslims have these cookies on Eid and at the end pilgrimage months. And if you visit with Arab-Jewish friends, they’ll serve ma’amoul filled with nuts for Purim,” shares chef and baker, Zulekha Badar.


You’ll need:


Fine semolina - 1/2 kg
Ghee, melted and hot - 150 gms
Melted butter - 50 gms 
Vegetable oil - 1/4 cup 
All-purpose flour - 1/2 cup
Powdered milk - 1/2 cup
Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
Yeast - 1/2 tbsp
1 teaspoon sugar (for proofing the yeast)
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp orange blossom water (can be replaced with water or milk)
Rosewater - 3 tbsp


For the filling:


Pitted dates/date paste - 750 kg
Cinnamon - 2 tsp
Cardamom - 1/4 tsp


Method:

  1. In a bowl place the semolina and add the butter/ghee and oil to it. Rub till the mixture resembles wet sand. Cover and leave overnight. This will allow the semolina granules to swell and soften. Then, on the next day add the flour and baking powder.
  2. Dissolve the yeast in the water with the sugar and wait for it to foam and bubble. Add it to the semolina mix along with orange blossom and rosewater. Mix gently, till you make a lump of the dough and then crumble it between your fingers and repeat.
  3. Do not mix for too long as this will help develop the gluten and cause the ma’amoul to become tough. Cover and allow it to rest for one hour.
  4. For the filling - Knead the dates with some butter or olive oil. If your dates are on the dry side, soak them in hot water for 30 minutes and drain before using.
  5. Form a small cup using the dough, use your thumb to make a hole and pinch the sides to make them thin. Stuff it with filling and roll it to form a smooth ball. 
  6. Now, bake the ma’amoul on the middle rack of a preheated oven at 170 degrees for 15 minutes or till the edges are golden brown. Then place them under the broiler for 2 to 5 minutes of till the tops are golden brown.
  7. Take the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, move them to a cooling rack because they are prone to crumbling if you move them when they are still hot. Enjoy once cooled!




Skillet Date Cookies 




"Consuming dates during Ramazan is customary across Muslim households. It comes packed with a lot of nutritional value. This skillet date cookie recipe is perfect, because it requires less fat, and especially now, with all of us being mindful of the ingredients available. Plus, these cookies can be easily put together,” suggests chef Jasjit Keer of Alfredo’s in Malad, Mumbai. 


You’ll need:


Dates - 1 cup, chopped
Walnuts - 3/4 cup
1 egg beaten 
Honey - 3/4 cup
Crispy rice cereal - 2 cups
Butter - 3 tbsp
Flaked coconut - 1 cup (unsweetened preferred) 
Cinnamon powder - 1/3 tsp; optional


Method:

  1. Combine dates, butter, honey and beaten egg in a heavy skillet over low heat. While stirring constantly, cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the mixture is bubbly. 
  2. Remove the pan from the heat. Add cinnamon, rice cereal, dates and stir thoroughly.
  3. When the mixture is cool enough to handle and also slightly warm, roll the mixture into small balls and then roll them in the coconut. Set them on a plate or baking sheet.
  4. Let it cool thoroughly before serving.


Date Peanut Butter Smoothie


There’s no better pick-me-up than a delicious smoothie that also scores high on the health card. Give Mohit Bulchandani’s – founder of a healthy café in Mumbai, Seeds of Life – recipe a shot. 


You’ll need:


Frozen Banana - 1
Pitted dates - 2
Peanut butter - 1 tbs
Cacao/cocoa - 2tsp
Milk of choice - 100 ml


Method:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a food processor/blender till its smooth.
  2. Serve chilled!


Israeli Couscous with Dates




For chef and influencer, Karishma Sakhrani, eating clean doesn’t necessarily have to always mean counting your calories. “I’m always looking to add nutrient-dense ingredients to my diet. And dates do just that! High on nutrition with a burst of sweetness and flavour, it livens up this Middle Eastern-inspired salad,” she says. 


You’ll need:


Kale leaves - 25 gms
Orange – 1, segmented
Dates – 3, chopped in to small bits
Hazelnuts – 2 tbsp, halved and toasted
Fresh mint - 1/4 cup, finely chopped
Fresh parsley - 1/4 cup, finely chopped


For the couscous:


Israeli couscous - 1/2 cup, dry measure
Large pot of boiling water
Salt


For the dressing:


Extra virgin olive oil – 2 tbsp
Pomegranate molasses – 1 tbsp 
Lemon juice – 1 tbsp 
Crushed garlic - 1⁄4 tsp 
Salt - to taste


Method:

  1. Wash the kale thoroughly and leave in a colander to drain and dry completely.
  2. Once dry, tear into bite-sized bits.
  3. For the couscous, bring a large of pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and couscous and cook for about 7 to 8 minutes until al-dente. Drain immediately and run through cold water.
  4. For the dressing, combine the ingredients for the dressing thoroughly.
  5. To assemble, massage a little oil in to the kale and leave for ten minutes.
  6. Combine the dressing with the prepared couscous, orange, dates, hazelnuts, mint, parsley and give it a light toss.
  7. Remember to share it with someone you love.




Date Semiya 


Semiya or sevai is a special-but-common treat in all Muslim homes, sweetening up mornings on Eid, or providing a sweet escape at the end of a long day of fasting. Chef Ishijyot Surri, executive chef, SJI Hospitality and Foods Private Limited, gives the traditional dessert a Ramazan special twist, by incorporating dates into it. Here’s how!


You’ll need:
Pitted dates- 15 pcs
Milk- 2 cups
Thin vermicelli broken and roasted- 11/2 cup
Water- 1 cup
Cardamom powder- 11/2 tsp
Roasted cashew and pistachio- 2 tbsp


Method:

  1. Boil water in a saucepan. Add dates and cook until the dates dissolve.
  2. Add cardamom powder and vermicelli and cook for 1 minute. 
  3. Add milk and let it boil.
  4. After it comes to a boil, add the roasted cashew and pistachio and let it simmer for 3
  5. minutes.
  6. Remove from the pan and serve. You can also enjoy it as a cold dessert.


Balsamic Dates and Goat Cheese Crepes



Go gourmet with this fancy crepe recipe by Chef Shrikant Jogdankar, senior sous chef, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar.


You’ll need:


Refined flour - 125 gms
Milk - 100 ml
Egg yolk - 1 
Brown sugar 5 gms
Nutmeg - 1 pinch
Butter - 10 gms


Dates Mixture:


Pitted dates - 100 gms
Almonds - 10 gms
Cashew nut - 10 gms
Balsamic reduction - 10 ml
Goat Cheese / Chevre -20 gms


Method:

  1. For the crepe, mix all the ingredients and blend together to form a thin batter.
  2. Heat a nonstick pan, gradually pour the batter and swirl the pan evenly.
  3. Take out the crepe once golden brown from both sides and cool down.
  4. For the mixture, combine the dates, half the almonds and cashew nut and blend it roughly.
  5. Lay the crepe on a board and stuff the mixture. Roll it evenly.
  6. Heat the nonstick pan and apply butter over it. Pan sear all the stuffed crepes lightly.
  7. Lay over quenelles of goat cheese on each crepe.
  8. Garnish with sliced almonds and drizzle balsamic reduction on top of it.
  9. Enjoy it warm.


Banner image: Shutterstock.com
Inside images: Karishma Sakhrani, JW Mariott Mumbai Sahar, Zulekha Badar and Shutterstock.com


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