Ramadan is a festive month of spiritual healing, togetherness and faith.
This Ramadan, Instagrammer Ayesha Erkin has decided to take traditional dates and mix things up.
Ayesha Erkin is a 29-year-old trained architect and all-round food lover. In 2020 she decided to start her Date of the Day series, which sees her focus on the nutritional fruit and combine it with a range of unique flavours.
During the first US lockdown, Erkin decided to move back to her family home in Texas, “everyone’s spirits were low as Ramadan is such a community oriented month, the pandemic took that away from us,” she tells The Independent. This was the first Ramadan in lockdown and being such a community driven month, the pandemic changed things for many Muslims across the globe. Limiting gatherings, iftar celebrations and prayer at local mosques.
Erkin’s idea for the series sparked when she came across an Islamic reading about how the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) would combine dates and cucumbers together. This Inspired her to start mixing different foods with dates, “experimenting with foods is like meditation to me, it centers me,” she says.
Ramadan is about bringing family and friends together, “what I loved about this series is that my family always look forward to Iftar and opening our fast together. We often get caught up in our busy lifestyles, so it felt good to be still for a moment,” says Erkin.
Dates have many health benefits. For starters, dates are high in fibre, minerals and sugar, this is a good energy booster after a long day of fasting . They’re also easily digested, so eating dates after a long day can help your body’s glucose levels return to normal.
Erkin’s unique date combinations have struck a chord on social media, with recipes you can’t help but want to try.
Here are Erkin’s top date recipe picks to sweeten your Ramadan:
Mango Lassi brûlée
- 1 cup ripe (or frozen) mango or ½ cup mango pulp.
- ½ cup yoghurt
- 1-2 tbsp milk or water, as needed
- ½ cup water
- 1- 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin or agar agar (any unflavored thickened agent works)
- 2-3 threads saffron (or ½ tsp saffron powder)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp cardamom seeds (or 2-3 cardamom pods)
- Dried rose or ½ tsp rose water
- Cane sugar for sprinkling
- Take a small pot and boil water with the saffron, cardamom, rose and sugar.
- Meanwhile, place the chopped mango (or pulp + frozen chunks) in a blender with the yoghurt. You want this to be on the thicker side consistency wise as opposed to a regular drinkable lassi, so only add the milk or water as needed but we will be adding the gelatin water mix to this.
- When the water is boiling, add in the gelatin and mix.
- Place into the blender with the lassi and blend.
- Pour into a bowl and place in the fridge for about an hour or two until it’s set. You can also place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes if you’re in a pinch, but the middle may not set completely.
- Take the mango lassi pudding and place in a piping bag – if you don’t have one, place in a ziplock and snip one of the corners for a quick homemade piping bag!
- Remove the pits from your dates.
- Squeeze the mango lassi pudding into the dates. The texture should hold easily on its own.
- Sprinkle the dates with sugar; castor works well for a deeper taste. Using a culinary torch, torch the tops of the dates to create a crispy creme brulee type of layer. The sugar is critical for this or you’ll just be burning the pudding and date! If you don’t have a torch, you can broil it for 30 seconds to 1 minute in the oven or until the top is browned. Be careful to not let it burn.
- Place saffron threads on top to decorate (optional)
Caramelized Honey Onions with Mascarpone
- 7 -10 Medjool dates
- Mascarpone spread (or any type of cream spread that’s not too sweet)
- 1/2 white or yellow onion
- 1 TBSP ghee
- 1 TBSP honey (Use a light and dark honey for contrast!)
- Water (as needed)
1. Chop onions thinly
2. Heat pan to medium heat and add ghee.
3. Immediately add half a tablespoon of honey to the ghee.
4. Add the onions and lower heat. You’re not sautéing the onions! You want them to cook slowly for them to caramelise.
5. If it looks like they’re getting crisp, pour some water on the onions. This helps soften them!
6. When slightly brown and soft, add the other half of the honey.
7. When a jammy texture is achieved, remove from heat. Taste (if you can) and adjust sweetness accordingly.
8. Set aside to cool and while the onions are cooling, slice and pit the dates.
9. Once pitted, add a smear of mascarpone to one half of the interior of the date.
10. Scoop some onions and fill in the other half.
11. Serve immediately and enjoy! This can be stored in the fridge for about 3-4 days.
- 7-10 Medjool Dates (this recipe can work with any type of dates)
- A sweet, soft bread. You can use milk bread, brioche, Hawaiian rolls or even croissant.
- 1/2 cup (64 g) powdered sugar, plus more to thicken glaze as needed
- 1 tbsp milk (15 ml), plus more to thin glaze as needed
- 1/2 tsp (2 ml) vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp (2ml) lemon juice
- Sprinkles to decorate (highly recommended)
1. Pit your dates.
2. Place powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and lemon into a bowl and whisk until it’s at a medium consistency with a shiny glaze. To adjust if too thick or too runny, add more milk or sugar accordingly.
3. Take your bread and rip a piece of. Compress it with your hands until it feels pretty dense. Stuff it into the date, adding more as needed but don’t overstuff as you want to make sure the opening of the date can close! This is because if you dip it into the glaze and too much gets into the bread, it’ll be too sweet and the texture will be off.
4. Place the dipped dates on some parchment paper and decorate with sprinkles immediately before the glaze dries.
5. Let the glaze dry at room temp (approx. 1 hour) or place in the fridge to speed up the process.
6. Enjoy with some coffee!
Sujuk Date Wellington
- 7 -10 Medjool Dates
- Sujuk (Turkish beef sausage or you can use summer sausage. Sujuk is just much oilier when cooked so it has a lovely, fragrent taste)
- 2 squares of phyllo dough (puff pastry)
- Cheese/ smoked cheddar
- 1 egg
- Any herbs; parsley and dill work great!
1. Pit the dates and preheat the oven to 190 C
2. Slice the sujuk to a size that’ll fit in the date.
3. Slice the cheese to match the medjool size. Do not add too much as it’ll melt outside the pastry wrap!
4. Chop the herbs
5. Whisk the egg and set aside
6. Take the phyllo squares and roll it to half the thickness. This is crucial as you don’t want too much pastry to wrap the date as it expands.
7. Fill the date with sujuk, herbs & cheese
8. Wrap the date with the dough. Use the egg wash to help the edges stick and then pinch the ends.
9. Brush the dough wrapped dates with the egg wash
10. Slice the top of the dough, creating 3 small slice marks
11. Pop into the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown
Lotus Coffee Crunch
- 7 -10 medjool dates
- 2 tsp instant coffee in an espresso cup
- 2 oz (approx 50-60 g) boiled water for the instant coffee
- 1/2 cup mascarpone or any type of mildly sweet cream
- Lotus spread
- Crunchy granola (around 1/4 cup / 32 g)
1. Boil water and make your coffee. You can either make instrant or slow drip, Turkish/ Arabic coffee.
2. While the coffee cools to room temp, remove the pits from the dates.
3. Stuff the dates with lotus spread.
4. Scoop the mascarpone into a bowl and pour in the cooled coffee.
5. Whip until there are no clumps and the color is golden. Feel free to add any extra flavoring like cardamom powder or syrups if you’d like!
6. Dip your dates in the coffee cream.
7. Place on wax or parchment paper and sprinkle with the granola.
8. Melt about a tablespoon of lotus spread in the microwave. Use it to decorate the top of the dates
9. Place dates in the fridge for at least one hour to set.
10. These should stay good for a few days but make sure to store them in the refrigerator and enjoy!
For more date recipes head over to Erkin’s Instagram page.
Happy date making and Ramadan Mubarak!