--- Join Ainsley Harriott as he meets a family who makes date syrup - and date seed coffee! - in Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook on Sunday, October 25 at 8.30pm on SBS Food or stream it on SBS On Demand ---
Date syrup is a golden-brown liquid that, unsurprisingly, is wonderful used as a sweetener. Dates, after all, are deliciously sweet little snacks just as they are, and they make great syrup. But it can star in savoury recipes too.
Also referred to as date honey, date molasses, rub, silanm, dibs or dibis, among other names, date syrup can be used in many recipes where you'd use maple syrup, honey or golden syrup. Some versions are runny, others are closer to a paste. Popular for centuries in some parts of the world, for a long time it was found only at specialist grocers and health food stores in Australia, but it's now becoming more widely available - and of course you could make your own. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Dress up a salad
During his travels in Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook, Ainsley Harriott meets a family in Jordan who show him how they make date syrup. First, the dates are boil with water for about an hour. The liquid is then strained, and boiled again, without the date pulp, until it reduces to form a thick, red-brown syrup. One of the women explains that locally, the syrup is popular for breakfast, served with tahini on bread. (Another fascinating part of his visit? The date stones are used to make date coffee). Later, Harriott is inspired to use some of the date syrup to make a Jordanian version of fattoush, a bread salad popular in many parts of the Middle East. The date syrup is used in the dressing" "I like a little bit of sweetness in my dressing, so it works perfectly," he says of the salad, a perfect combination of fresh flavours and textures. You can also try using date syrup instead of maple syrup, honey or pomegranate molasses in other salad dressings.
As Baba Schwartz suggests in her challah recipe, you can use date syrup instead of sugar to make a richer, sweeter version of this plaited Jewish bread.
Brighten up your breakfast bowl
This is one of the simplest of all ways to enjoy this sweet syrup. Drizzle it over a bowl of hot porridge or a stack of pancakes. Or try it instead of pomegranate molasses on this creamy Middle Eastern rice bowl (an all-year-round favourite, as it's equally good served warm or cold, and can be served with whatever fruit is in season, or even some sliced Medjool dates).
While date syrup is often made by the two-stage method described above, there are plenty of variations. Some just blend the dates and water, and that's the method used in this lemon and date lemonade. The date syrup will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, making it easy to make fresh batches of this wonderfully refreshing drink.
“Paired with a salted white chocolate ice-cream, this dish has all the flavours of the dessert – dates, olive oil, salt and spice. It might seem like a lot of syrup to pour over the top but trust me, it can take it and it’s worth it!” says Shane Delia, of his recipe for olive oil cake with date syrup. Instead of water, this syrup cooks the dates with lemon and orange juice, sugar, cinnamon, star anise and cardamom, creating a wonderfully spiced sweet syrup.
Challah image via Pixist.
While this may feel like you’re eating dessert for breakfast, this mousse is a fantastically healthy start to the day.
These brownies are dense, but not heavy. They’re quite rich, so you won’t need much to feel satisfied – the perfect match for a cup of coffee.
We put these cookies to the test. Lunchbox sturdy? Check. Best friends with vanilla ice-cream (hello sandwich!)? Check. Love a cookie that can go from teatime to dessertime. Pudding should be jealous. These cookies offer up the gooey richness of dates combined with the chewy caramelness of brown sugar.
Moroccan chef Hassan M’Souli gets inspired by the Mediterranean for this summer salad recipe with dates, figs and goat’s cheese.