This week I was kindly sent a large box of Medjool dates to taste and test before Christmas. Until a few years ago, dates did nothing for me. I used to find them oversweet, dry and just not very nice. It all changed when I went to Morocco two years ago and tried some local, really juicy and plump medjool and decided I actually love dates.
Mostly grown around North Africa and Middle East (but some species, like medjool, are also grown elsewhere such as California), they have been used at arabic tables for centuries and were said to be the food worthy of kings.
I now enjoy eating them on their own, and they are a great source of vitamins, nutrients and fiber so perfect for a quick pick-me-up.
Yet since it’s holiday time and everyone is loving a bit of extra calories, I decided to make something quick and delicious I learnt years ago from my dear friends from Bosnia, Elma and Samra. Dates are part of their cultural heritage. I remember eating these dates with them at parties and over a drink or a cup of tea, and loving the flavour. Here is my take on Samra’s dates, wishing her and her family all the best for the near year.
Merry Christmas everyone!
2/3 dates per person
Almonds (skin on)
150gr approx (1 teaspoon per date) Mascarpone*
Caster sugar to taste
1 tbspoon whisky or brandy
1 drop vanilla paste (optional)
Remove the stone from each date, making sure the date stay intact and there is a single cut on thelenght of each date. Mix the mascarpone with the sugar – I would use as much sugar as you are comfortable with, as the dates are sweet enough and you dont want to over sweeten them. I added a bit of vanilla sugar, if you like vanilla flavour too. I also added a dash of single malt scotch whisky, an aromatic malt. This is also optional and you could use any warming liqueur such as brandy or rum, but do not over do it or the cream will be too soft and the alchool too overpowering!
Drop a teaspoon of cream into each of the dates – depending on their size, you may need a bit less or a bit more. Place a single almond in the middle of the creamy part and serve immediately or store in the fridge for later. They keep a day or two.
* I have also made this recipe with ricotta cheese for a lighter, Sicilian ispired version and I have also made it with half fat creme fraiche for the really calorie conscious. It is a little bit more tart and much softer but it works nevertheless. The date is the main show piece of the dish!