Sunday, 10 November 2013

From the pages of old children's books - stuffed dates

Well, I've never seen those used as a bookmark. Thank goodness, as they'd be damagingly sticky. I suppose that my bookmark finds have been the postcard and used book token variety. Stuffed dates seem to be something of a feature of twentieth century children's books - they're included with the pink-iced cakes and chocolate eclairs at parties along with stiff-petticoated skirts and suitable presents. While pink-iced cakes have been replaced by fantastical cakes, chocolate eclairs are still on offer and syrupy boxes of dates were something that my grandparents always had at Christmas. As to the stuffed dates, they just weren't something that I was familiar with tasting and most recipes seem to suggest removing the date stone and replacing it with stone-shaped marzipan to make an 'attractive' sweet. They weren't a feature of any parties I went to as a child, though those included iced ring biscuits, crisps and assorted chopped fruit in the vague hope that we might counteract the dreaded 'E' numbers with something healthy. 

Why on earth am I muttering about dates? And stuffed dates at that? Well, mostly because they're a food that went rather out of fashion and now coming back courtesy of the fabulous (and expensive) medjool dates that turn up for Christmas and Eid. I'm looking forward to those - especially after a fabulous business present of fresh dates on a date palm one year. The Telegraph has an interesting article on how dates are cultivated and picked, so I'll be nibbling my medjool dates with this in mind realising the care involved in this fragile crop . While I do like marzipan, I don't think they need this addition.

One day I'll organise a Candy Nevill-inspired sweet-making party, but my sweets are likely to be chocolate-coated marshmallows and chocolate peanut butter cups. A recent present was The Sweet Book of Candy Making and I just need to add a sugar thermometer to my Christmas list.