Date(i)licious | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 18, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 18, 2019

Date(i)licious

Now that Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr is over, we are done with using regular iftar ingredients, but typically, most of our fridges and pantries are still stocked up with these ingredients. While we can reuse most of them by incorporating them into our regular meals, there are few that are foreign to our traditional meal plans. A prime example of that are the dates. So, let us make good use of the dark fruit, and generate dishes to simply wow our guests.

There are at least 30 kinds of dates around the world, and they fall pretty much under three broad types — soft, semi-dry, and dry. The differentiation is made according to the glucose, sucrose and fructose content.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF DATES

Ajwa dates: Popularly known as the “king of dates,” these were known to be the Prophet’s favourite. Much softer and drier in texture, they have myriad health benefits, one of them being increasing immunity.

Medjool dates: This date is grown in hot-dry climates like that of the Middle East, Africa and California. They are sugar-free dates, which are good for diabetes patients, and they also provide vitamins, minerals, and energy for overall health.

Kalmi dates: The rich dry fruit is a variety from Oman. It’s a variant of the black dates, and is typically small and cylindrical in shape. These dates are high in potassium and helps prevent diseases like diarrhoea. 

Mabroom: These are very sweet and chewy as well. They fall under the category of premium dates, naturally rich in mineral and antioxidants.

Ambera: These are considered to be the finest quality dates from Medina, Saudi Arabia. It is the largest of the Medina dates and is renowned for its size. They are known for accelerating the natural healing process.

Khudri: They are cylindrical in shape and are often found in medium or big sizes. These brownish-red dates have the hidden quality of boosting energy instantly, making them perfectly suitable for Ramadan.

Zahidi: These are the most exquisite variety of dates grown in Iran. The most widely-consumed dates in Iran are available here only during month of Ramadan. They are light yellow in colour and round in size. They contain high amounts of vitamin A, B and C, and also improve blood circulation.

Safawi: These Saudi Arabian dates are chewy and have a sweet texture. They are pretty big in terms of size, with a dark colour. These are best known for treating anaemia and intoxication.

Sukarri: This variety from Saudi Arabia is very sweet and moist, and provide an instant dose of energy.

 

NUTRITION VALUES OF DATES

The fruits of date palms pack quite the nutritional punch. At the same time, they contain an insignificant amount of fat and have no cholesterol. Dates boost your energy while pacifying your hunger, and your body benefits from their health-promoting nutrients. Dates are a good source of various vitamins and minerals. It’s also a good source of energy, sugar, and fibre. Essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc can be found in them. They also contain vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin K.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Here are just some of the reasons why you should be eating dates regularly:

• Did you know that dates are free from cholesterol, and contain very little fat? Including them, in small quantities, in your daily diet can help you keep a check on cholesterol level, and even assist in weight loss.

• Dates are a strong source of proteins that help us in staying fit, and keep our muscles strong.

• If you have a few dates every day, you won’t have to take vitamin supplements. Not only will it keep you healthy, but there will be a noticeable change in your energy level. So, it works really well as quick snacks.

• Dates are rich in selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, and all of these are required when it comes to keeping our bones healthy, and preventing conditions such as osteoporosis.

• Dates are loaded with potassium and sodium, which goes a long way to keeping your nervous system in order. Potassium helps to reduce cholesterol, and keeps the risk of a stroke in check.

• Apart from the fluorine that keeps your teeth healthy, dates also contain iron, which is highly recommended.

• If you soak a few dates in water and chew on them daily, your digestive system will function better. It’s recommended for those who have trouble with constipation.

• The vitamin C and D works on your skin’s elasticity and also keeps your skin smooth. If you suffer from skin problems, incorporating dates into your diet might help you in the long run. Dates also come with anti-aging benefits, and prevent the accumulation of melanin in your body.

• The sugar, proteins, and other vitamins in fruit helps in weight gain, especially when you need it.

Cooking with Dates

Dates are best eaten by themselves. The sweet fruit makes for an excellent breakfast snack, or in cereals and porridge. Plenty of people have even switched to date syrup instead of sugar. Jaggery made from date palm tastes delicious. Dried dates can be added to cake, bread and other dishes. Keep a box of seeded or seedless dates in your refrigerator, and make sure to have a few every day. It will also prevent from overeating.

 

DATE SMOOTHIE

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened almond milk or regular milk

8 deseeded dates

2 bananas

½ cup ice cube

¼ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp cinnamon

Method

In a blender, combine the almond milk, dates, banana, cinnamon, vanilla, and ice. Blend everything together well until the dates are in tiny pieces and everything is smooth, and put in the refrigerator.  Serve chilled.

 

DATE AND NUTS LADDOO

Ingredients

½ kg dates, deseeded and chopped

¼ cup almond

¼ cup pistachio

¼ cup cashew nuts

1 tbsp poppy seeds

½ tsp green cardamom powder

2 tbsp ghee

¼ tsp nutmeg powder

Method

Coarsely grind dates in a mixer and transfer into a bowl. Coarsely grind cashew nuts, almond and pistachio. Heat ghee in a pan. Add ground dry fruits and poppy seeds, and sauté for a few minutes. Add date and mix well. Sauté till dates are heated through. Remove into a plate and set aside to cool slightly. Add green cardamom and nutmeg powder. Mix everything well. Divide the mixture into equal portions and shape them into laddoos. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

APPLE, BANANA AND DATE SALAD

Ingredients

2 cups apple, cubed

½ sliced banana

½ cup dates, chopped

¼ cup raisins and walnuts

For dressing—

¼ cup pineapple juice

¼ tsp lemon rind

½ tsp lemon juice

¼ tsp mustard powder

1 tsp powdered sugar

Salt, to taste

¼ tsp black pepper

Method

In a small jar, combine the ingredients for dressing. Tightly cover and shake hard to mix well. Combine the salad and dressing in a bowl, and toss to coat well. Serve immediately.

 

DRY DATES HALWA

Ingredients

1 cup dry dates, deseeded

4 cups full fat milk

3 tbsp ghee

¼ tsp cardamom powder

A pinch of nutmeg powder

2 tbsp almonds, blanched and sliced

2 tbsp pistachio slivers

Method

Combine the dry dates and sufficient water in a bowl. Cover and keep aside for 1 hour. Drain, and blend in a mixture till coarse without using any water, and keep aside. Heat the milk in a deep non-stick pan for 10 minutes on high flame, while stirring occasionally. Add the dry dates mixture, mix well and cook on a medium flame for 25 minutes, while stirring occasionally and scrapping the sides of the pan. Add ghee and sugar, mix well and cook on medium flame for 3 minutes. Switch off the flame, add the cardamom powder, nutmeg powder, almonds and pistachios and mix well. Garnish with almonds and pistachios, and serve hot.

 

DATES AND OATS CUPCAKES

Ingredients

16 dates, deseeded

½ cup almonds

½ cup oats

1½ cup whole milk

½ cup salted butter

1 tsp baking powder

½ cup sugar

2/3 cup wheat flour

Chocolate chips

Cupcake liners

Method

Take a date, almond, and oats in a bowl and add milk to it. Heat it for a few minutes till the milk is warm (microwave for 2 minutes). Grind to a smooth paste (does not have to be too smooth). Now add melted butter and milk. Then add sugar, baking powder, flour, and mix well. Line the cupcake pan with liners and fill them to about ¾. Top with chocolate chips. Preheat oven at 160° C for 10 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Serve or store in an air tight container.

DATE ROLLS

Ingredients

1 cup dates, deseeded and finely chopped

1 tbsp almonds, chopped

1 tbsp pistachio

1 tbsp walnuts

2 tbsp sesame seeds

Method

Heat the ghee in a small non-stick pan, add the dates and cook on low flame, while stirring continuously for 5 to 7 minutes, or till they turn into a soft lump. Remove from the flame, add the almonds, pistachio and walnuts and mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and shape each portion into a roll. Coat each roll evenly with sesame seeds and refrigerate to set. Serve chilled.

 

Photo: Collected

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