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Dates: an adaptable, tasty and healthy ingredient! Take a look at some unexpected ways to use dates.

 

Dates in Salads and Other Unusual Ways to Eat These Delicious Fruits

 

Sweet, chewy and wrinkly, dried dates have a reputation for being traditionally used in Middle Eastern desserts, covered in sugary syrups, and most definitely reserved for a sticky, sweet and indulgent treat.

 

But dates are now being used in a range of different dishes, some even savoury. They make a perfect natural and healthier sweetener and add a richness to sauces, curries, stews and tagines.

 

They’re most definitely no longer only reserved for the annual Christmas cake and truly are a versatile food! So what are dates and how else can they be used?

 

What Are Dates?

 

Dates are actually a fruit, and grow in abundance on the date palm trees that grow in tropical climates such as the Middle East and North Africa. They’re thought to be the oldest cultivated fruit in the world, first grown for food over 8,000 years ago.

 

Generally, here in the West, we eat dried dates which appear wrinkly yet still plump, glossy and juicy (fresh dates are smooth and less common outside of the countries they’re grown in). At Global Foods, we also supply pitted or chopped dates plus date syrups, pastes and powders.

 

As dates become more popular, we’re seeing an explosion of new and interesting ways to use dates in recipes and as snacks, so here’s our round up of some of the most unusual and surprising ways to use dates.

 

Stuffed Dates

 

Pitted, dried dates are ideal for eating whole, but stuffing them with a range of different ingredients brings a whole new dimension to eating dates. And stuffing dates is surprisingly easier than it sounds! (Albeit a little messy.)

 

One of our favourite things to do is to stuff dates with a teaspoon of nut butter (almond or cashew nut butters go particularly well with dates, but smooth peanut butter also works well). It can be a bit messy, but the sticky fingers are well worth it, as this is a healthy snack that will satisfy those familiar afternoon sweet cravings.

 

To make this snack even more indulgent, sprinkle with cacao powder for a nutty, sweet and chocolatey experience. These are ideal prepared in advance and make a great addition to a sharing dessert for a quick and easy finish to a dinner party. They’re also great for eating after a run or gym session.

 

Dates can also be stuffed with cream cheese and sprinkled with chopped nuts for a savoury twist.

 

Adding Dates to Salads

 

No more does a homemade salad just have to consist of chopped cucumber, sliced tomatoes and bland iceberg lettuce. Anything can go into a salad, including roasted vegetables, pickles, nuts, seeds and fruits such as pears and pomegranates, not to mention a whole cacophony of different leaves.

 

Dates go really well in salads, particularly salads containing walnuts as the nuttiness of the walnuts and the delicate sweetness of dates blend particularly well. Dates also compliment the sharpness of blue cheeses in salads.

 

Or, for a warm, winter superfood salad, add chopped dates to wilted kale and slivered almonds.

 

Salad dressings can also benefit from the addition of dates, especially dressings made with balsamic vinegar.

 

Chopped or sliced dates are great in fruit salads too, alongside zesty fruits with added spice from nutmeg or cinnamon.

 

Dates in Savoury Muffins

 

Like salads, muffins have enjoyed a revival of late, and are no longer only reserved for blueberries or chocolate chips.

 

Muffins are now found containing savoury ingredients such as baked cheese and grated courgette. Baking muffins requires a sweet element, even savoury ones, and dates are the perfect alternative to refined sugars and balance out the savoury flavours perfectly.

 

A quick internet search for date muffin recipes brings up countless results for unusual flavour combinations, so we’re definitely going to get experimenting!

 

If muffins aren’t your thing, dates also go well in nut bread recipes. Nut breads are ideal for freezing so you have a deliciously indulgent and different bread ready for lazy weekend breakfasts.

 

Dates in Alternative Desserts

 

When we think of dates, we often think of maamoul (Middle Eastern cookies stuffed with dates) or baklava (Turkish sweets often eaten for dessert). Even if we don’t know the name for them, we’ve almost certainly eaten these traditional sweet treats.

 

But dates can also be used in all kinds of decadent desserts, including fudge, caramel cups, banana cake, truffles and even rice puddings.

 

Anything that requires sugar can benefit from the addition of whole, chopped or powdered dates or date syrups.

 

Dates in Slow Cooked Savoury Dishes

 

As we mentioned above, dates are as good in savoury dishes as sweet. Slow cooking pitted dates in tagines, curries and casseroles turns them soft and gooey, making them ideal in dark meat dishes with lamb and chicken.

 

The Benefits of Dates to Your Business

 

In today’s ever increasingly connected and informed world, consumers are becoming more aware of the need to make healthier lifestyle choices, including avoiding eating too much refined sugar.

 

Many people naturally have a sweet tooth, and love nothing more than a sweet treat. They don’t want to completely avoid all sweet things and adding dates to your foods, snacks and drinks is a sensible choice. Dates are a healthier alternative to refined white sugar and contain fibre, vitamins and minerals.

 

If you’re a producer of sweet or non-sweet foods, then dates could be the right sweetener for you! As we’ve seen here, dates make a delicious, interesting addition to many foods and as customers palates expand it’s time your food brand joined the date revolution!

 

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