"An almost perfect food" proclaimed London's Department of Health and Human services after assessing the nutritional content of dates.
That's not big news in this part of the world, where dates have formed a consistent part of the diet for hundreds of years. They are particularly popular during Ramadan, which means you may have some left over after the holy month.
Low in fat, high in protein and an excellent source of antioxidants, dates also contain potassium, magnesium, selenium and calcium, among other minerals. Their high fibre content is an additional bonus, but their natural sugar content means they are high in calories, so they should be consumed in moderation.
Here are five recipes to help you use up your stocks.
1. Right Bite energy balls
Courtesy of Right Bite; www.rightbite.com
1 cup dates
3 tbsp natural salted or almond butter
1/4 cup dark chocolate (roughly chopped)
1 tablespoon chia or flax seeds
2/3 cup rolled oats.
Combine ingredients in a blender. Shape mixture into balls and place in fridge.
2. Chicken stuffed with dates
Courtesy of Emily Price
3 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
75g dates, chopped
2 skinless chicken breasts
60g cream cheese
small bunch parsley, leaves picked and chopped
25g flaked almonds
salt and black pepper
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for eight to 10 minutes, until softened and light golden brown.
Increase the heat slightly and add the cumin seeds, followed a minute later by the dates. Stir well, season with salt and black pepper and cook for a further three to four minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, tip the mixture into a bowl and leave to cool.
Using a sharp knife, slice into the side of each chicken breast, to form a pocket.
Beat the cream cheese, parsley and flaked almonds into the cooled date mixture, taste to check the seasoning and spoon into each pocket.
Heat two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for three minutes on each side, then reduce the heat and continue to cook for a further seven to eight minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked through.
Remove from the pan and serve with your chosen accompaniments – wild rice works well.
3. Chocolate-dipped peanut butter and date energy balls
Courtesy of Zahra Abdalla of Zahra’s Kitchen; www.cookingwithzahra.com
1 cup chopped dried figs
½ cup cashew nuts
½ cup almonds
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups dates, pitted
In a food processor, pulse the dates, figs and nuts.
Add the chia seeds, rolled oats and peanut butter, and pulse until combined into a dough-like consistency.
Roll the mixture into 24 small balls and set aside.
Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips.
Dip each ball halfway into the chocolate and place on a tray to set.
Refrigerate until the chocolate hardens.
4. Deliciously Ella’s raw date and hazelnut brownies
Courtesy of Deliciously Ella; deliciouslyella.com
For the brownies:
3 cups medjool dates, pitted
220g blanched hazelnuts
5-6 tablespoons cacao powder
2 tablespoons date syrup
Pinch of sea salt
For the frosting:
16 medjool dates, pitted
60g cacao powder
7 tablespoons coconut oil
250ml almond milk
Preheat oven to 180c, fan setting.
Roast the hazelnuts in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes until golden. Take out and leave to cool.
Once cool, blend the roasted hazelnuts in a food processor until they form a crumbly mixture.
Add the dates and blend again before adding the cacao and maple syrup.
Place the mixture into a baking tray and refrigerate.
While the brownies are in the fridge, place all of the frosting ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth.
Spoon a smooth layer of the frosting over the top of the brownies.
Place back in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours to allow the brownies to set.
5. Apple, date and cinnamon muffins
Courtesy of Emily Price
130g butter, at room temperature
2 green apples, peeled, cored and diced
½ tsp ground cinnamon
100g dates, pitted and finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
80g self-raising flour
80g ground almonds
¾ tsp baking powder
30ml whole milk
Preheat the oven to 180°C, or gas mark 4.
Line a muffin tin with muffin cases. Set a large saucepan with 15 grams butter over a medium-low heat and leave to melt.
Tip in the chopped apples, sprinkle over the cinnamon and then stir well to coat.
Add a generous splash of water, increase the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft.
Add the dates to the saucepan, stir again, and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.
Beat together the eggs and remaining butter, either by hand or with an electric whisk.
Fold in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder, then add the cooled apple mix and the milk until just combined.
Divide the muffin mix between the muffin cases and transfer to the preheated oven.
Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until risen and golden.
Leave for 5 minutes in the tin, then remove and leave to cool completely.