Dates, or kadhuru, is one of the most important components of Ramadan cuisine in the Maldives; it is ingrained within our culture to break fast with a date before moving onto the other delicacies. While it may not have been obvious back when this tradition began in the Middle East, we know now that dates are rich in natural sugars, fiber and other nutrients that make it an exemplary fruit for breaking fast.
According to fossil records, the date palm and its fruit have been around for some 50 million years and was a crucial element in the diets of Ancient Egyptians and even Mesopotamians. Now, most date plants are cultivated in the Middle East, Africa, and most recently the Americas, especially of the coveted Mehjool variety. There is always an influx of demand for dates in Muslim communities during the Holy month and immediately afterward during Eid celebrations. Most of the time, dates are eaten raw or dried, but this is a diverse and delicious little fruit that can be served in a multitude of ways.
Of course, we shouldn’t forget to mention the fact that date fruits are often not favored by the younger audience because the dried variety has a certain resemblance to an insect we shall not name. So today, we are going to tell you ways to use dates in Ramadan cuisine to spice up and spruce up these incredible little fruits and turn it into something the entire family can enjoy.
Date Paste – Sweet, Sticky and So So Yummy
Date pasta is one of the best natural sweeteners that you can find, and it takes all of 03 minutes to make but lasts for about 03 months in the refrigerator. Just add some hot water to pitted dates and either let it soak overnight in a tightly closed jar, or alternatively, microwave for a few minutes. Afterward, just blitz in your food processor until it’s beautiful and shiny and smooth (add a pinch of salt and a few drops of vanilla) and your date paste is ready to use in pretty much whatever you want to sweeten. This can also be used as a natural replacement for sugars in treats (like brownies or nut bars) which ends up super sticky and decadent.
Tasty tip: Make some delicious (and nutritious) smoothies with date paste, frozen bananas and your favorite flavor of ice cream.
Ma’amoul – Traditional (and sumptuous) Date Cookies
Ma’amoul is a Ramadan and Eid staple in the Middle East, usually made with Semolina (suji) and other ingredients (the usual suspects when it comes to baked goods) which you can adjust according to your own taste. The middle of the cookie is filled with date paste spiced with cinnamon and/or cardamom, giving you a sweet, rich and chewy center.
It’s impossible to eat just one of these, so remember to make a giant batch for your entire family.
Tasty Tip: These cookies are perfect to take to potluck Roadhavillun or Tharaavees to wow your classmates, colleagues or friends.
Dates + Citrus = Love
Dates and citric fruits such as Lemon or Orange is one combo that is loved throughout the world. There’s nothing like the acidic bite of the citrus to cut through the sweetness of the date fruit and is definitely recommended for those who like desserts that aren’t too far on the ‘sweetness’ scale. After all, a little tartness helps the sweetness feel far more delicate, and the indulgence less guilt-inducing for those on a stricter diet.
Tasty Tip: Any date cake, muffin or even date bars can have their flavors elevated with the addition of some orange juice or zest in the dough, or a simple lemon glaze on top.
P.S If you are someone who loves sweets that are that really really sweet, use coconut flakes. Coconut and dates is a combo that makes every dessert creamy and sultry.
Words by Ruba Ali