The humble date often makes an appearance at Christmas – about the only time of year that you seem to be able to buy the gorgeous, sticky, squidgy Medjool style date, as opposed to the small, shrivelled, dry ones you are forced to be content with the rest of the year round!
Dates are a fruit in their own right, not the dried version of something else. Although higher in calories than most fresh fruits, they do also contain a fantastic range of nutritional benefits and so are definitely a good alternative to chocolate if you are craving something sweet this Christmas.
Fibre: dates are high in fibre which helps our digestive systems to function smoothly (pardon the pun!), prevents constipation, promotes gut health and also can help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.
B Vitamins: Dates contain a good amount of niacin, riboflavin and folate. These are all part of the B Vitamin family which help to support a range of bodily functions.
Riboflavin (B2): supports the health of the nervous system and can help promote skin and eye health as well as helping our bodies to release the energy from carbohydrate.
Niacin (B3): helps to promote the health of the digestive and nervous systems
Folate: helps to support Vitamin B12 to promote the production and health of red blood cells, therefore supporting the transport of oxygen to the muscles and preventing fatigue. It is also a vital vitamin during pregnancy as it prevents conditions such as spina bifida from developing in newborns.
Iron: Dates contain a decent amount of iron; any foods containing iron are good to eat as this is one of the minerals that we can so easily become deficient in, especially if we do not eat meat. Iron helps to build red blood cells which carry oxygen to muscles as a source of energy. If we are deficient in iron we can develop anaemia, a symptom of which is extreme fatigue and lack of energy.
Calcium: Dates contain a small amount of calcium, which promotes bone health, growth and development and is involved in cardiac function, so can help to keep the heart strong and healthy.
HOW TO STUFF A DATE!
1. Slice the date down one side, being careful not to cut all the way through as you want to keep it whole.
2. Carefully remove the stone. A good treat here, as there is often some date flesh still on the stone – it’s chef’s perogative to suck the stones! Just as satisfying as licking the spoon!
3. Take one whole almond, pistachio, walnut half, cashew or a nut of your choosing and place this where the stone used to be. Alternatively, stuff the cavity with chopped nuts.
4. Roll the stuffed date in grated coconut or sprinkle some on top for a delicious treat and a beautiful festive, snowy look
5. Alternative stuffings are:
* cream cheese (low fat, if you want to keep it healthy)
* blue cheese
* thick, lowfat greek style yogurt and honey
* bacon, wrapped around the date like pigs-in-blankets (obviously the bacon needs to be cooked first)
per one date, stuffed with an almond and rolled in coconut (per one date stuffed with blue cheese)
1 x small-medium sized butternut squash, peeled and de-seeded, chopped into 2cm cubes (800g)
1 x red pepper, de-seeded and diced (100g)
2 x red onions, peeled and diced (190g)
2 x cloves garlic, finely chopped (7g)
½ – 1 x red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped (4g)
1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped (8g)
250g sweetcorn, frozen or canned
1 litre vegetable stock (1 x 10g cube)
1.5 tbsp. vegetable/olive oil (15g)
300ml semi-skimmed milk
20g dessicated coconut
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4
- Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a deep baking tray. Add the cubes of butternut squash, sprinkle with a little salt and roast for 25-35 minutes, until soft and slightly browned.
- Scatter the sweetcorn on an ungreased flat baking tray and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside for later.
- Heat the rest of the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and fry for approximately 30 seconds, just to infuse the oil with some flavour.
- Add the chopped onion and pepper and fry for 5 minutes or until softened and browned slightly.
- Add the roasted butternut squash to the vegetables with the stock. Cover with a lid, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
- In a separate frying pan, toast the coconut for 2-3 minutes without adding any oil, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. When browned lightly remove from the heat and put coconut into a bowl. Set aside for later.
- Add the milk to the saucepan of soup and then use a blender (I use a Billy-whizz hand-blender) to blend the soup until creamy.
- Stir the cinnamon and nutmeg into the soup. Stir in the toasted sweetcorn and coconut.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes to thicken it up.
Energy 1000 kcal (4187 kJ)
Total sugars 70g
Per Serving (Serves 4)
Energy 250kcal (1047 kJ)
Total sugars 17.5g
1 x tbsp. of reduced fat crème fraiche = 70kcal/ 293 kJ
1 x tbsp. of low fat natural yogurt = 25 kcal / 105 kJ
A crusty roll = 130 kcal / 545 kJ
½ x naan bread (80g), toasted = 225 kcal / 942 kJ
A poppy/sesame seed bagel, toasted – 275kcal / 1151 kJ
I had a proper good jig about to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (first album) and The Go Team – Thunder Lightning Strike
A hilarious alternative might be this….