If you like dates and nuts, this is the recipe for you. I truly appreciate Suhasini’s generosity in sharing it with me–it has become a part of our cooking repertoire. Simple ingredients, simple preparation, and it stays well refrigerated for days. It is great for family as well as for entertaining.
Rather than buying fruit and nut bars from the grocery store, try making these. Using the best possible dates makes a difference to the texture. Some pitted dates, and ones with pits, have a hard interior and it can take a frustrating amount of time to remove all the hard white bits. Having tried this recipe several different ways, I like it best with a combination of Jordanian and medjool dates that I pit at home and tear apart with my fingers—they are so moist and soft! However, it is not always possible to get a specific kind of date, so choose whatever is available that is moist and glistens.
I like ours with pistachios, almonds, and cashews. Lately, I have been making rolls with salted sunflower seeds, walnuts, and orange zest as well. So experiment and see what your family prefers—more dates, less dates, more nuts, less nuts, finely chopped nuts or chunky pieces. In terms of heating times, microwaves vary greatly. So the heating time may vary. I also find that a deeper bowl requires more time than a shallow bowl and may need to be stirred more often for even cooking. The dates are really being heated, not cooked.
My version has more nuts and less dates because our family likes it less sweet. We also use bigger chunks of nuts as a take-off from Dubai-based Puranmal‘s famous dry fruit mithai—Nutberries and Dateberries. My version comes close to Purnmal’s Dateberries though I do need a little more date than they do to hold the nuts together. An outer edge of finely grated unsweetened coconut, sesame seeds, or crushed pistachios adds a layer of flavor and texture as well as a little elegance.
If you have a log or two in the fridge, it is so easy to serve at very short notice. The logs keep well for days in the fridge and can even be frozen. You can use more cashews and almonds and fewer pistachios. The ratio that works best for me is 2 cups chopped dates (lightly packed) to 11/2 cups nuts.
- 1 cup coarsely chopped medjool dates (use a large knife, or your fingers, and not a food processor as the blades get stuck)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped Jordanian dates (remove tough parts)
- 1 ½ cups nuts (½ cup raw slivered almonds, ½ cup cashews, ½ cup plain pistachios)
- ½ cup fine unsweetened desiccated coconut or sesame seeds (optional)
- ½ cup ground pistachios (optional)
- In a large microwave-proof shallow bowl, add the dates and nuts tossing them together with a tablespoon of water. If the nuts look a tad dry, add a little more water but no more than another tablespoon. More water dilutes the date flavor and gives a more pasty, gummy texture. Cover with a microwave-proof plate.
- Heat on full power for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir. Heat again, covered, for 30 seconds. The mixture should feel very warm and may have wisps of steam. Do not overheat as the dates burn easily and get tough and chewy–the little bit of added water helps prevent burning.
- Remove from the oven and start mashing it with a potato masher. Once it cools enough to handle, knead with the flat of the palm, pushing the mixture away from you. Keep kneading till the nuts are evenly incorporated and the dates are somewhat puréed–enough to hold the nuts. It sometimes helps to lightly grease the hands with ghee, or coconut oil.
- Divide the mixture into two parts. Place each mound on separate, large double layer of plastic wrap. Place it in the center. Cover the mounds with plastic and compress and shape into roughly a 11/2 inch log, or whatever you prefer. Keep wedging and compressing to make it a dense, compact roll as the air is squeezed out. Tap the ends firmly against the counter.
- This is an optional step. Take each log and roll it, pressing it gently, into a plate with the coconut, or pistachios, or a mixture of the two, or sesame seeds. Cover the whole surface of the log with it.
- Wrap the logs tightly. Chill well in the fridge and then slice the cold log into ¼ inch slices with a sharp serrated knife. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Makes about 25 little slices. Preparation time: 5-10 minutes. Cooking and kneading time: 10-15 minutes.
Suhasini’s original recipe
- 1 lb 14 oz-coarsely chopped pitted dates, removing any hard stem or interiors
- 4 heaping tablespoons finely chopped walnuts and cashews
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- In a large microwave-proof bowl, add the dates and nuts and cover with a microwave-proof plate.
- Cook on full power for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Allow mixture to cool enough to handle and knead well with ghee covered hands—keep dipping fingers and hand with ghee if is sticky.
- Place the kneaded ball on parchment and roll into a log about 1 ½ inches round. Cover it tightly in plastic wrap and chill well.
- Slice into ¼ inch slices and serve at room temperature.