When I was a girl, we had dates at Christmas. They came in long, oval boxes, and were very exotic. They were also very delicious, a chewy then melt in the mouth sweetness that was something we didn’t have, as a rule – there wasn’t much money for such things as sweets when I was young. However, for years Dad worked at a wholesale greengrocers, so we had plenty of fruit and vegetablesJ.
So, dates are an important part of my Christmas memories. Mum loved them, I loved them, and my daughter loved them in her turn. Mum never stuffed them, but I've done it for years. Not just for Christmas, but for dinner parties, or just for indulgence. I can even kid myself that they're relatively healthy (are you skilled at self-deception, too?) - after all, they are fruits, the marzipan is essentially almonds (ok, with a lot of sugar, if we must be honest), and chocolate produces endorphins that make us happy.
For a change, this year, I've given my stuffed dates an extra twist. I've rolled the marzipan around candied peel and walnuts. Still healthy, well, the walnuts are, anyway!
They are ridiculously easy to make, yet scrummy. I hope you'll have a go at making them. Just think, if you have a vegan coming to dinner, this is an ideal treat that you can all enjoyJ.
You'll need some dates, marzipan, chocolate and candied peel and walnuts.
Stone your dates, if necessary. Cut your candied peel into pieces slightly smaller than your dates, to allow for the marzipan to wrap around and seal it. Trim your walnuts into slim slivers, too. Mould the marzipan around the fruits and nuts so that it's date-stone shaped and will fit into the cavity left when the stone was removed. The picture is a cross section of the two that I've done, the walnut is on the left and the candied peel is on the right.
Melt the chocolate in a microwave or over boiling water on the hob, then dip one end of the stuffed dates in and set aside to cool and firm up. You can see one cut open along with some completed examples. I don't spend hours making the chocolate level, I like my home made treats to look just that, home made and rustic. But you can smooth away to your heart's content. You might find it easier if you add some vegetable shortening to the chocolate when you melt it, if that's what you plan to do.
Be inventive - you can use other fruits and nuts to stuff them with. Look in the store cupboard and see what's around. Glace cherries would be lovely, but I used all mine in my Christmas cake and haven't got round to replacing them yet! Or green angelica would look stunning. Dried apricots cut into slivers would be good, cranberries would be a festive touch, slivered almonds would echo the marzipan, you get the idea.
Enjoy - but not too many at once!