I have what could be modestly described as a large collection of cookbooks, and like most people I go through cycles of using them. At the moment, I’m working my way through The Essential Madhur Jaffrey, which contains some fantastic Indian recipes. I’ve actually had this tome for nearly seven years, so its about time it gets used properly. Each time I looked through it, there was a recipe that caught my eye. One to make at some point. That recipe was for fried dates, and finally, I’ve made this dessert. All I can say is – wow!
While I love Indian food, I tend not to eat Indian desserts. This is not because they are not nice (they are!) but they seem just a little bit excessive once you’ve nibbled on curry, dahl, rice, chapatis, poppadoms, pickels and chutneys. What you do want, if anything, is something small.
Fried dates seem to tick this box – it’s a small dish, but boy does it pack a punch! Madhur Jaffrey’s original recipe is almost foolishly simple – shallow-fry dates in oil for around 30 seconds until hot, then serve with cream and chopped pistachios. The quantities suggested are very modest, and you initially thing that it will never be enough. However, when you try these dates, those doubts will melt away. It is very rich and very sweet, so you can reliably work on the assumption that each person will actually consume only two whole dates.
When I got round to making this, I made some inevitable tweaks. The original recipe was silent as to the type of dates to use, other than they should be pitted and of “good quality”, so I plumped for juicy medjool dates. Given that these dates would be fried, I wanted to be sure they would not be too dry, and the delicious medjools seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Madhur also suggests using vegetable oil to fry the dates, but I wasn’t so sure. Instead, I opted for clarified butter. If in doubt, use butter…
The result is spectacular. This is a buttery, sticky, chewy dessert with a rich, caramel flavour (yes, this might just remind you of sticky toffee pudding). The richness of the dates is balanced well by thick double cream and has some colour and crunch from the pistachios. You won’t be able to eat too much of this, but it does mean you’ve got a very simple, very delicious way to finish off a meal.
To make fried dates (served 4-6):
• 50g unsalted butter
• 12-16 medjool dates, pitted
• thick double cream
• unsalted pistachios, chopped
1. Clarify the butter – melt in a saucepan, skim off any foam, and allow to sit for a few minutes. Pour off the clear liquid, leaving any milky liquid or solids at the bottom of the pan.
2. Slice each date lengthways into quarters.
3. Heat the clarified butter in a frying pan until it starts to bubble. Add the dates, cooking for around thirty seconds (they should be hot, but should not start to brown!). Remove the dates from the butter using a slotted spoon, letting as much butter as possible drain off. Divide the dates between small plates.
4. Top the dates with a generous teaspoon of double cream, sprinkle with pistachios and serve immediately.
Worth making? Why, oh why, did I wait so long to make this? It’s just about the richest thing I have eaten for a while, but it makes a quick, elegant dessert for the end of an exotic meal. Delicious!
13 responses to “Fried Dates”
Lovely! I could also imagine this with something tangier such as creme fraiche. Beautiful photos – the pistachios appear jewel-like.
Thanks – you could definately try different things on top of the dates. Creme fraiche is a very good idea, as it would also melt like the cream does. Otherwise I think labneh would be good – it’s very firm, so almost more like a mild cheese with the warm, sweet dates.
I was very luck with the pistachios I used – I had to de-shell them, but they had a very vibrant green colour which looked great against the white.
So less is more then! I am always on the look-out for quick but different desserts and this seems one to remember. As I am a huge fan of cardamom, I am tempted to add a pinch to this recipe. Would that be a good choice? Or just too much?
I once made a dessert with Medjool dates soaked overnight in a cardamominfused coffeesauce served with a big dollop of Turkish yogurt (Moro recipe). It left a big impression, so hence the association.
Thanks for posting this!
Hi Jools – you know, as I was making this, I also thought that cardamom would be delicious. I think it has that peppery, lemon-like freshness, so I think it would would well, as the dates in butter are very, very rich. Cardamom would also be the better choice than cinnamon or cloves.
I like your idea of the dates in coffee syrup – do you have a specific recipe? I’m getting rather into these desserts which are small but very sweet. I’ve also recently had baby artichokes in spiced clove syrup and syrup-soaked walnuts with clotted cream. In each case, very small portions, but oh so rich!
Happy to oblige! The recipe is from Casa Moro 2nd Cookbook. If you like the North African/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Cuisine, this book is a must have. Great hummus recipe and the Morrocan Tomato and Egg Breakfast Dish is a firm family favourite.
– 400 gr whole or pitted Medjool dates (Medjool dates tend to be sweeter and will make the espresso more syrupy. Steeping them overnight allows the flavors to develop fully. I remember reducing the liquid a little bit after steeping it. I wanted it to be more ‘syrupy’ and then let it cool down again.)
– 500 ml freshly made espresso
– 2 tsp. fine sugar
– 20 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
– 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
– 200-250 gr. labneh or Greek/Turkish ‘full fat’ yogurt*
If necessary slit dates lengthwise along one side and remove and discard pits. Put dates in a heatproof bowl.
Bring espresso, sugar, cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick just to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over dates and cool to room temperature. Steep dates, covered and chilled, overnight. (Dates can steep for up to 2 days.)
Serve chilled dates with a little espresso syrup and yogurt.
* It is even possible to use regular supermarket brand yogurt (not Greek). Just drain in a sieve lined with cloth, set over a bowl for one hour. Discard liquid.
Super – this looks delicious, will give it a try soon.
Dates & pistachios – Delicious combo
Yes – delicious!
I thought there was no new way for me to eat a date after 18 years of living in the Middle East. A must try
Hi Sally – funny you say that, I did a search for this, and it’s not a commonly-known recipe. It’s an Indian dish, so glad to introduce you to something new.
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I would use rich vanilla ice cream instead of cream. The warm dates with the cold ice cream will be a fabulous combo I think! 🙂
Hi Amrin – that’s a great idea – I (really) didn’t think of it. The cream is rich, as are the dates, so the lighter ice cream would definitely be good.