From brownies to energy balls: 5 easy recipes that use up leftover dates

There are plenty of ways to make use of any remaining fruit lying around your house after Ramadan

Typical of the month of Ramadan for muslims is the setting here, after the fast has been broken - tea and dates. Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان‎) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, that is in excess or ill-natured; from dawn until sunset. Ramadan was the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were said to be revealed to the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. (iStockphoto.com) *** Local Caption ***  WK19JL-EDPICKS-IFTAR.jpg

"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

Ingredients: 

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.

Method:

Combine ingredients in a blender. Shape mixture into balls and place in fridge.

2. Chicken stuffed with dates

Courtesy of Emily Price

Dubai, 17th November 2011.  Chicken stuffed with dates and cream cheese.  ( Jeffrey E Biteng / The National )

Ingredients: 

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

Method:

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

Chocolate-dipped peanut butter and date energy balls. Courtesy Zahra Abdalla, founder of Zahra's Kitchen 

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Apple, cinnamon and date muffins. Courtesy Emily Price

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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.

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