By Heba Al Haj Yonis, 2nd Year English and History
The Croft Magazine// In honour of the Holy month of Ramadan, Heba has curated a foolproof Date Cookie recipe to break your fast to for Iftaar. This dessert is certainly an easy to execute, crowd-pleaser. This article is collaboration with the University of Bristol Islamic Society.
As-salamu alaykum (Peace be upon you all!) We are now more than half way through the blessed month of Ramadan, where many Muslims around the world eagerly anticipate the daily iftaar (breaking of the fast) with family and friends. One beloved tradition during Ramadan is the preparation and sharing of special homemade treats. Today, I want to share with you a special recipe that holds a dear place in my heart – my Teta’s (grandma’s) date cookies. These delicious treats are not only a delightful indulgence but also carry with them a heartwarming story of family, tradition, and love.
My grandma hails from Homs, Syria, and lives in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Whenever we used to visit her and our family, she would send us back to the UK with boxes of her date cookies by sneaking them into our suitcases before departure. It was her way of sending a little piece of home back with us, and of alleviating a little bit of that homesickness that we felt upon return.
Recently, my grandma shared the recipe with all her grandchildren and these cookies have quickly become a cherished part of our Ramadan traditions and Iftaars (breaking of the fast). It has brought us comfort in knowing that we could still enjoy a taste of our Grandma’s recipes even when we are far away. She regularly receives photos from all around the world of her grandchildren making these cookies, and it brings her so much joy to see her recipe being passed down and enjoyed by her loved ones, no matter where they are.
One of the things that make my grandma's date cookies unique is the addition of fennel seeds and aniseed, which are her special touch and elevate the flavour of these cookies to another level. If you can't find these spices, you can always leave them out or replace them with cinnamon! Date paste can also be made by hand by grinding a soft variety of dates like medjool with a couple of teaspoons of melted butter in a food processor. These cookies are also relatively easy to make compared to other traditional date cookies, which require special moulds. They really don't require much time so are perfect for busy days or when you want to whip up a batch of homemade treats in a jiffy.
But more than just the taste, these date cookies carry with them the love and warmth of my grandma's kind and generous spirit. She has always been someone who finds joy in bringing happiness to her family through food, and this recipe is a testament to that. By sharing her cherished recipe, my grandma's love and warmth can continue to spread not only in our family but to anyone who tries this recipe as well.
Teta’s Date Cookies: A Ramadan Taste of Home and Happiness
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp ground aniseed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups date paste
Black Nigella seeds to sprinkle
- Preheat your oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, spices) until combined
- Add the wet ingredients all at once (oil, eggs, vanilla extract) and mix by hand to form a soft, slightly sticky dough
- Split the cookie dough in half. Flatten one half onto a shallow tray until 1cm thick. This will be the bottom layer of your cookies.
- Roll your date paste into large balls and flatten them between your hands. Then lay them onto the first layer of dough. This date layer can be as thick as you prefer.
- Flatten the second half of the dough onto the date layer until all the date paste is covered. Don’t worry if its looking thick - you’ll be flattening it out one more time!
- Give it all one final flattening by pressing the dough into the tray with your palms until the dough is around 2cm thick.
- Using a cookie cutter to cut out your cookies. If you do a rotating motion with your cookie cutter it’ll be less stuck to your tray and easier to transfer onto your baking sheet.
- Using a fish slice, transfer these cookies onto your baking tray.
- Sprinkle the black nigella seeds on top. Then place in the oven for around 10 minutes or until slightly golden - you don't want them too dark as they taste best when they’re on the softer side!
- Allow them to cool for 10 minutes then transfer onto a serving plate and enjoy! These cookies are also traditionally enjoyed with Arabic coffee or any hot beverage.
So, if you're looking to add a touch of sweetness to your Ramadan iftaars or simply want to enjoy a delicious treat that carries a heartwarming story, give my grandma's date cookies a try. I hope this recipe brings as much happiness to your family as it has to mine, and that it becomes a cherished tradition in your home for years to come. Ramadan Kareem!
Featured Image by Heba Al Haj Yonis
What's your go-to Iftaar food in the month of Ramadan?