Dates are in season again as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is upon us. Fasting is mandatory in Islam for all Muslims and we must not eat or drink (not even a sip of water) from sunrise to sunset. It is certainly a very testing month of our faith for all Muslims but we somehow manage and soon the 30 days get over and we get back to our regular eating. Dates are always eaten when breaking the fast at sunset because dates are highly nutritious (dates are very rich in iron, manganese, potassium and copper). It is recommended to eat 2-3 dates when breaking fast because dates provide the body with natural sugar, helping to restore the low blood sugar after fasting all day. And it helps to kickstart the digestive process.
So, I happen to be in a supermarket the other day and was thrilled to see boxes and boxes of dates displayed all ready for the approaching fasting month. I quickly grabbed two boxes and brought them home only to have my husband requesting a loaf/bread/cake or bars using the dates. You see, its always a challenge to please my husband's taste buds when it comes to confectionaries because he is so particular about the usage of butter, sugar and eggs. So whatever recipe I come across online, I have to tweak it to replace the butter (for this recipe I used coconut oil), eggs and reduce or sometimes completely omit the sugar. And I am not always successful.
The following recipe gives a no-butter no-egg Date and Walnut Oatmeal Crumble - essentially a date and nut filling sandwiched between two layers of crispy crumb mixture.
Ingredients (Yields around 18 crumbled squares)
For the Crumb Base and Topping
1 3/4 cups rolled oats (or even fruit-free muesli)
1/2 cup brown granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup coconut oil
For the Date Filling
250 gm dates
1/4 cup brown granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup grated white coconut
1) Firstly, you have to pit and chop the dates into small pieces. This is the most time consuming step of this whole recipe.
2) Then, place the chopped dates, water and brown sugar into a small pot. Boil till the dates become soft and mushy. This will take roughly 5 mins on low heat. You can mash the date mix to speed up the process.
3) Then, add in the chopped walnuts, grated coconut, vanilla and coconut oil and give it a good mix.
4) Switch off and let this date mixture cool.
5) Take a medium sized mixing bowl and add all the ingredients - plain flour, rolled oats or fruit free muesli, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and coconut oil. Mix it well and divide into 2 portions.
6) Spread out half the crumb mixture into a greased 10inch by 6inch glass baking dash.
7) This will be followed by the date filling. Use your fingers, to spread it out evenly, if you need to. That's exactly what I did!
8) Top off with the remaining crumb mixture and spread it out evenly.
9) The side view.
10) Bake in a preheated oven for 30-45 mins at 180 deg C or 350 deg F. Once baked, let it cool down bwfore slicing the block into squares.
11) It wasn't easy to cut into perfect squares because of the sticky date filling but they tasted so delicious! The sweet filling complemented the not-so sweet crumb mixture very well.