A date with a special fruit!

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Dates or khajur, are so versatile that they can be used as a snack, or as a sweetness filled ingredient in many recipes. It is that special ingredient that makes chaats so finger-licking good! Among other things this khatti meethi chutney is absolutely mandatory to complete a chaat. And that chutney cannot be complete without dates or khajur!

This fruit has origins which can be traced back to 4000 BC when it used to be cultivated in Mesopotamia and Egypt. This wonder fruit has been a staple food of people of Middle East and South Asia when they used to the fruit to make date wine. 

Dates can be had dry or soft just by themselves, or can be pitted and stuffed with a variety of fillings. They can also be chopped and used in a number of sweet and savoury dishes. How can one not think of date and walnut combination whether in the form of cookies or cakes or pudding? The latest version of this versatile fruit is chocolate covered dates and secondly, a sparkling date juice, which in some Islamic countries is used as a non-alcoholic version of champagne.

My favourite recipes that use dates are a pudding and a halwa. To make this Sticky Date Pudding, take 1 cup pitted dates in a bowl, add ½ tsp soda bicarbonate, 1 cup boiling water and set aside. Take ½ cup brown sugar in a bowl, add 90gms butter, beat till fluffy. Add 1 tsp vanilla essence, 2 eggs, continue to beat. Add 1 cup refined flour and mix. Add dates along with the water, blend. Pour into a greased tray and bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes at 180°C. Cut into slices when cool and serve. Gajar and Khajur Halwa is a great hit too. To make it, sauté 10 grated carrots in 1 tbsp ghee for 1 minute, cover and cook for 5 mins. Add ½ cup sugar and mix. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add 2 cups milk, cook for 6-8 minutes. Add ¾ cup seeded and chopped dates, ½ tsp green cardamom powder, 10 chopped cashew nuts, 5 blanched, peeled & slivered almonds, ½ cup grated khoya and mix. Cook for 10-15 minutes or till almost dry. Garnish with more almonds and serve hot. 

What about the health benefits? There are many. Dates are an excellent source of dietary potassium. Eighty percent composition of ripe dates is sugar and the remaining 20% is made up of protein, fibre and traces of minerals like boron, cobalt, copper, fluorine, magnesium, manganese, selenium and zinc. Dates are known to have laxative properties and are therefore beneficial for people suffering from constipation. Just soak dates overnight in water and consume them in the morning to get their full benefit. Besides this the nicotinic content is said to help cure any kind of intestinal disorder. They are also believed to help in weight gain as they contain sugar, fats, proteins and also many essential vitamins. One kilogram of dates contain nearly 3000 calories. Inspite of all their nutritional values, dates should be had carefully. Because of their sticky surface they tend to attract a number of impurities. So while buying make sure you buy only those that have been packed hygienically. And make sure you wash them well before consuming and then only can you enjoy all their goodness. 

To wind up, try this recipe for Diwali. 

Date And Anjeer Baked Karanji : Knead 1 cup refined flour, 2 tbsps semolina, 2 tbsps ghee, ¼ cup milk to a semi-soft dough. Divide into equal portions, cover with a damp cloth. Mix ¾ cup chopped dates, ¾ cup chopped figs, 20 crushed cashew nuts, 20 crushed pistachios, 1 tsp green cardamom powder, 1 tbsp roasted poppy seeds, 2 tbsps milk and mash. Roll out each dough portion, place in a karanji mould, stuff with the date mixture, close mould & press. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25 minutes.

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.