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.