I will do the challenge for myself once my oven’s back in action, though. So I’m going to post about something else which excited me – fresh dates! Dates, dates and moredates of all kinds tend to take over the market here during the holy month of Ramadan/Ramzan . Devout muslims break their daily fast with dates during this period of fasting.I’ve seen the common dark brown and sticky variety or the less common wrinkled light brown dry and chewy kind, but this year, for the first time, I saw fresh dates still on the vine.
Fresh Barhi dates are a yellow in colour and if they’re not ripe, they will taste astringent. When they start ripening they’re crunchy and just sweet a bit like apple. As they ripen they become sweeter and when they’re really ripe they look a little wrinkled and the pulp is very soft, squishy and honey sweet. There is also a red variety of fresh dates, and how dates ripen can differ depending on variety.
I liked eating these yellow dates off the stem, but my husband and daughter didn’t for some reason. All the better for me! So I thought maybe I could cook/ bake with them. I baked them in a crumble and a cake, put some in salads, and even tried a coconut chutney with it. I wanted to experiment a little more but Ramadan/ Ramzan was over and the dates disappeared suddenly as if they had never been here in the first place. So, I will have to wait for another year to experiment and I will.
For now, here’s the crumble I made with the fresh dates and apple. A crumble is a essentially a fruit-based dessert with a streusel/ crumbly topping (hence the name) and usually served as a warm dessert with ice-cream, cream or custard on the side. Think of it as a healthier version of a pie and a wonderful way to showcase seasonal fruit.
This crumble is a healthier version and uses oil instead of butter, and not much at that. With lots of fruit, almonds and oats, this is much lighter and rich in fibre too. A perfect everyday sort of dessert that’s easy to make too. If you cannot find fresh dates, feel free to substitute that with more apple or another fruit of your choice. You can serve it with ice-cream, some cream or custard. Vanilla ice-cream would be best, but we found the crumble pretty good with Belgian chocolate ice-cream too.
Fresh Dates & Apple Crumble
3 largish apples (I used Golden Delicious) 3/4 cup fresh dates 1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice, preferable fresh 1/4 cup brown sugar A pinch of salt 1 cinnamon stick 1 star anise flower
For the crumble:
1/3 cup rolled oats 1/8 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup slivered almonds 1 tbsp brown sugar 1 tbsp oil 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut Ice-cream, cream or custard, to serve
Peel, core and chop the apples. Pit the dates and quarter them lengthwise. Put both the chopped apples and dates along with the orange juice, salt, cinnamon stick and star anise in a pan and bring it to boil. Turn down the heat, and simmer until the fruit is cooked and tender but not mushy. Discard the cinnamon stick and star anise and divide the fruit equally between four oven-proof dishes. In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the crumble and sprinkle over the fruit. Bake the dates and apple crumble at 180C (350C) for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with cream or vanilla ice-cream. This recipe serves 4.