In Morocco, we serve dates in cooked dishes (special tagines and couscous), in pastries, in juices, plain, stuffed with nuts or with a homemade almond paste.
The dates are also served during wedding ceremonies or any happy events. We receive our guests with a pile of good dates, namely Mejhoul (turned to Medjool when it reached Californian shores). The main drink to serve along side the dates is cold milk or almond milk juice. No tea, no coffee, just milk.
|My dates need some pressure from the side to make them look neat|
There is no Ramadan without dates. This is one of the first things we usually think to buy to follow a Sunna from the Prophet Mohammed SAAS.
There are so many dates out there and people favourite different ones. Some like them soft, some like them dry, some sweet, some less sweet..
Even those who come for a State visit will be welcomed the same way.
For today’s recipe, choose sweet meaty dates and make a good homemade almond paste. That’s all what you need.
Ingredients are an indication since the dates differ in size, so will the filling. You need to work out how much you need to make as many as you want.
Make the almond paste ahead of time and freeze it. I’m not counting the time to make it in the recipe as the blanched almonds need to be dried first before turning them into a paste.
Prep: 20 min
- 20 dates, ideally Mejhool/Medjool,
- 300 of blanched almonds (see below how)
- 100 g of fine caster sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp of good orange blossom water
- 3 drops of meska/mastic gum.
- Drops of food colouring (green, red or pink)
- 1/4 cup of orange blossom water to rub the dates from inside
- 50 g of caster sugar for a finishing touch
Make the almond paste ahead of time
Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 3 minutes. Rub them between your fingers. The skin will easily detach.
Wash the peeled almonds and drain. Place them in a kitchen towel and set aside to dry. Give them a rub or two to speed up the process. We usually leave them in the garden for a couple of hours when it’s sunny or just more hours on the kitchen’s counter.
Pound the meska with 1/2 teaspoon of caster sugar using the back of a glass.
In a blender, mix the almonds, the sugar and meska, the orange blossom water and blend to a paste. You may need to get the almonds out and flip the mix a couple of time. This way, you are sure it’s well blended.
Some almonds are greasier or less almondy than others. If you think you are dealing with bland almonds, add a drop or two of almond extract.
Now divide the almond paste into 3. Keep one 1/3 plain. mix 1/3 with a few drops of green colouring and the last 1/3 with the red colouring.
Depending on the size of the dates and their cavity, take about a tablespoon of almond paste and roll it between your hands to form small sausages or fingers. Set aside.
If you have a larger batch of dates to fill. make tall rolls/sausages of almond paste and then cut them into 4 cm bits by 1 cm.
Fill the dates
Open the dates from one side, remove the stones (we save them to tenderize meat while cooking plus other uses).
Use a kitchen towel or roll. Soak it in orange blossom water. Rub the dates inside and outside.
Stuff each dates with almond paste shaped as fingers just fitting the cavity. Slightly press the dates from the sides so they close tight on the almond paste.
|My sweets for a fasting day|
You could also apply some crossed incisions on the almond paste to make it look well finished. Roll that side on caster sugar.
Store in an airtight container. Place it in the cupboard or in the fridge. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature depending on the season. Keep for up to a week..
For fun, you can possibly make some small incisions on the marzipan to look pretty.
If you want to keep things simple, stuff the dates with slightly roasted walnuts or fried blanched almonds.
|Placing the walnuts inside before pressing the two sides of the dates|