Tag Archives: dates

* Banana, Date and Coconut Baked Porridge *

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Yes, I know what you’re thinking – that’s no’ how ye make porriiidge!

Well, you may be right there, but this is not your average porridge. I’ve been making banana and date porridge in the traditional fashion for years now and loving the satisfyingly sweet warmth first thing in the morning. Porridge season always begins every year on the morning of Anzac Day (which falls on April the 25th) after the 6am Dawn Parade Service, which commemorates the soldiers who fought and died in the world wars. Providing we weren’t spending the New Zealand winter in the Northern Hemisphere, we would generally eat porridge until well into the spring.

Then I discovered baked oatmeal, or baked porridge as it’s called in these parts. Being an avid online foodie follower, I came across a few recipes for baked oatmeal and it’s only recently that I’ve actually started making it. This recipe is a fusion of a few of the recipes I’d seen online, but has been given the usual Super Foodie makeover to ensure that it’s the best possible start to the day (or night). As with most of my recipes, you can play around with the ingredients to ensure it suits your taste and diet, whether you’re vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free or just trying to be healthier.

The coconut cream gives the porridge a luscious richness and through the process of baking, the porridge develops a crispy, biscuitesque crust. It really is an indulgent yet nutritious breakfast or brunch, perfect for kick-starting the weekend. The oats contain high levels of both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, which has proven to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol and keeping your insides so fresh and so clean (clean). Oats also have a high concentration of balanced protein, as well as a good dose of essential fatty acids, both of which promote longevity and good health. In short, this is verdammt good stuff.

The beautifully designed ceramics featured in the photo are available from Whiteroom – Dunedin’s top design destination.

Banana, Date and Coconut Baked Porridge

2 cups of oats (non-contaminated, gluten-free oats if you are gluten-intolerant)

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

A heaped teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 a teaspoon of nutmeg or mixed spice

A handful of sunflower seeds

A handful of chia seeds

A good pinch of Himalayan rock salt

A cup of coconut cream

A cup of milk of your choosing (almond, hazelnut, dairy, hemp etc)

A tablespoon of honey, pure, unrefined maple syrup or agave (optional)

A teaspoon of vanilla paste, extract or a vanilla bean, de-seeded

An egg or equal quantity of egg replacement

2 very ripe bananas, chopped

15 dates, chopped

Greek yoghurt or non-dairy alternative to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a baking dish with coconut oil or oil. In a bowl, mix together the oats, baking powder, spices, sunflower seeds, chia seeds and Himalayan rock salt.

In a separate bowl, mix the coconut cream, your choice of sweetener, vanilla and egg or egg replacement together. Add the bananas, dates and liquid mixture to the dry mixture and mix.

Pour into the baking dish and pop in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy on top.  Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, cut up and serve with Greek yoghurt or whatever else you fancy.

Serves 4 very hungry people or 6 moderately hungry people.

* Orange Blossom Stuffed Dates *

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The locale of Neukölln where I’ve recently been residing, is home to the largest mosque in Berlin and a considerable population of people of Middle Eastern descent.  As Ramadan is over for another year and the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr (Eid) is in full swing, there is great excitement in the air, a Christmas summer holiday-kinda feeling, where hanging lanterns festoon windows and shop fronts are adorned with bright, kaleidoscopic decorations.  The Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, literally translated as “festivity of breaking the fast”, signifies the end of Ramadan, the holy month on the Islamic calendar where Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations during daylight.  Ramadan is a time of intensive sacrifice and reflection, where empathy for others less fortunate is expressed through acts of generosity and charity.  It is also a time of reconnecting with friends and family during the evening meal, Iftar.  The warmth and connectedness continues to be celebrated during Eid, when loved ones gather together for a few days of lavish feasts and merriment.

Dates are considered very important at this time and during the month of Ramadan they feature in daily rituals.  An odd number of dates (usually three) are consumed after sun down with a glass of water to break the fast and will unquestionably star in a dessert during Iftar later that evening.  During Eid, they are also given out as presents.  What I love about dates, especially the Medjool variety, is that they are like eating a healthy caramel.  They are so naturally sweet and satisfying, that eating one or two will kick any mid-afternoon sugar cravings to the curb.  Dates are an excellent source of fibre and are also surprisingly rich in protein – evidently 5 times more than other fruit.  They also contain 15 different minerals including zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium and phosphorous.  Basically, they are wee powerhouses of goodness.

When I lived in Jordan, one of my beloved pursuits was to visit the sweet stores, especially during Ramadan and Eid.  There were so many delicacies on offer, tantalizing combinations of dried fruits and nuts, usually with an aromatic hint of rose or orange blossom.  It was here that I first encountered stuffed dates and I was instantly charmed as they’re my kind of sweetie treatie – naturally healthy and bursting with super sweet flavor.  This is my take on stuffed dates, which are the quintessence of good times and celebration.  Eid Mubarak!

Orange Blossom Stuffed Dates

16 – 24 Medjool dates

A selection of nuts:  Walnuts, macadamias, almonds, pistachios, Brazil nuts, cashews…

The juice and zest of an orange

1 tablespoon of honey or agave

1 tablespoon of orange blossom water *

1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon

In a small saucepan, slowly bring to boil the water, honey, orange-blossom water and cinnamon.  Allow to boil for a couple of minutes, stirring often, then set aside to cool. Split the dates open and remove the pit.  Set the nuts into the dates, with the nuts resting lengthwise.  With a pastry brush, generously glaze the stuffed dates with the syrup.  Pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes for the glaze to set.  Arrange on a platter and sprinkle the orange zest over the stuffed dates.   Enjoy at any time of the day or night, with rose tea, coffee or as a celebratory sweetie-treatie.

Note:  There will probably be some left over syrup, which makes a great accompaniment to yoghurt.

* Orange blossom water can be found at all good delicatessens or Middle Eastern food retailers.

* Wunder Bars *

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One of the things that I love the most about spending the summers in Berlin (apart from avoiding the New Zealand winters) is the access to inexpensive, organic whole foods. Clearly, I like to dabble in ancient grains and when I go to a supermarket or even a drugstore here, the aisles are packed with interesting and über-healthy types of flour, cereals, grains and vegan products.  Here, I really am in super foodie heaven.   A product that I’ve been experimenting with lately is puffed amaranth.  If I’m not having it for breakfast simply with fruit, milk and a touch of honey, I’m adding it to my super fruity Bircher muesli recipe for extra goodness.  Amaranth is a silent-type super food that you may have spotted hanging about on the bottom shelf at your local health food store.  However insignificant it may appear, it really does work in extraordinary ways.  Amaranth is actually a seed or “pseudo-grain”, which has been a staple food in numerous cultures for centuries.  In fact, the Aztecs regarded it as having supernatural powers and used it in religious ceremonies by forming a paste out of amaranth and honey and creating an image of a particular god they were worshipping.  Once formed, the image of the god was broken up and shared between the worshippers to eat.  This “food of the gods” is gluten-free, very high in protein and easily digested.  It is also rich in vitamins, containing vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin K and folate.  Minerals present include manganese, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.

Another super food that I’ve encountered in Berlin is the aronia berry, or chokeberry, as it is sometimes referred. The aronia berry is a native to North America and is being hailed for its amazing super food properties.  Research has suggested that presently it has the highest concentration of antioxidants in any fruit.  Aronia berries also have an extremely high concentration of flavonoids, which help the body fight against disease.  They are known to improve circulation and have a good dose of quinic acid, which can prevent urinary infection – helpful and nutritious!

So, these wunderbars really are a wunder.  They are prepared in a flash and are generally made up of ingredients that you would have lying about in the nether regions of your pantry (with the exception of the aronia berries).  They also provide you with extreme nutrients to ensure that you power through the afternoon without resorting to making evils at your irritating colleague, or Beau, who you’ve been living in a shoe box with for far too long.

Wunderbars

2 1/2 cups of puffed amaranth

1/4 of a cup of loosely ground flaxseed

1/4 of a cup of dates, finely chopped

1 cup of dried super fruits: cherries, goji berries, raisins, aronia berries, blueberries…

1/4 of a cup of sunflower seeds

1/2 a cup of nuts:  almonds, pistachios, cashews, Brazil nuts…

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

A large pinch of ground Himalayan rock salt

1/2 a cup of agave or honey

1/2 a cup of tahini

3 tablespoons of coconut oil

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract/vanilla paste

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Heat the wet ingredients in a saucepan until a liquid consistency is reached, right before boiling point.  Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until it resembles a divine mass of goodness.  Push into a form and pop into the fridge for a few hours to solidify.  Cut into bars and eat for breakfast, lunch or simply when you’re having a “moment”.  Keep refrigerated for the perfect wunder bar.

* Super Fruity Bircher Muesli *

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Bircher muesli is one of the best ways to start the day – naturally sweet and oh so nourishing, it really does give you the sustenance to skip out the door.  Bircher muesli was created circa 1900 by a Swiss German physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner to nurse his patients back to health the old fashioned way – with a hearty injection of nutrients derived from raw food.  It is essentially a combination of oats, fruit and nuts, soaked in juice overnight.  There are many variations of the original and the way that I enjoy mine is super creamy, full of spice and packed with plumped-up super fruit.  Bircher muesli is also very practical – it’s simple to prepare at night whilst cooking your dinner and is easily transported if you are taking a container full to work or, much preferably, the park to eat.

Oats are a nutritional wunderkind, providing serious nutrition to many, many people all around the world, mostly on week days.  Oats contain high levels of both soluble and insoluble fibre, which is good news for digestion as it keeps the digestive track cleansed and in tip-top shape and also keeps you full for longer.  Bircher muesli is also heart smart, with the oats and sunflower seeds providing cholesterol-lowering goodness from manganese, selenium and magnesium.  The high protein content in oats, sunflower seeds and amaranth coupled with the antioxidant hit from the super fruit make this a power breakfast fit for both Olympic athletes and generally awesome athletes, like ourselves.

Super Fruity Bircher Muesli 

1 cup of rolled oats

1 apple, cored and grated

10 dates, roughly chopped

1/2 a cup of dried super fruit of your choosing: goji berries, cherries, raisins, sultanas, cranberries

2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons of coconut chips or thread coconut

Cinnamon to taste *

1/2 a cup of yoghurt

1 1/2  cups of fresh apple juice (3 apples, juiced)

The juice of half a lemon

To serve:  2 tablespoons of puffed amaranth and extra fruit (blueberries work especially well).

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and leave to soak overnight.  Stir in puffed amaranth to serve and garnish with extra fruit.  Dig in.

Serves 2.

* I usually add about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon but I prefer mine extra spicy.

Rose-scented Oranges with Dates and Macadamias

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Rose scented Oranges with Dates and Macadamias

Much like the scent of a rose in bloom is one of life’s pleasures, devouring a rose-scented pudding  is also a delight for the senses.  This dish is Middle Eastern inspired, however instead of using the traditional pistachio nut common in Eastern sweets, I’ve added macadamias for a contrasting texture.   The ease of preparation is a bonus with this dish and it is perfect for entertaining, as it can be prepared a few minutes before the guests arrive and left to chill in the fridge.

This fragrant dessert is light, nutritious and the perfect way to end a meal,  as the oranges have a high concentration of vitamin C, which will boost the absorption of iron from the main course.  Macadamias are a good source of protein, potassium, calcium and dietary fibre and also provide a buttery richness which round this dish off perfectly.  Yummo.

Serves 4

4 large oranges

2 tablespoons of rosewater or Monin rose syrup

2 handfuls of macadamias

6 Medjool dates

A sprig of mint to garnish

Using your smallest and sharpest knife, slice around the orange to remove the pith and the flesh.

Slice the oranges into rounds, reserving the juice. Quarter the dates lengthways and remove the pip.

Arrange the orange rounds and dates in a serving bowl.

Mix the reserved juice with the rosewater or rose syrup and drizzle over the oranges and dates.

Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle over chopped macadamias just before serving.

Watch your guest’s eyes light up when they taste this delectable dessert and give yourself a pat on the back.