Nawal Nasrallah is the author of Delights from the Garden of Eden and she talked to Evan on Good Food about the history of the date.  She shared her recipe for Date Sweetmeat:

An easy date recipe, popular in the Arab world today. In medieval times, it was called hays, made of date paste combined with crushed ka’k, which is a dry variety of cookies, and enhanced with clarified butter or sesame oil. It was part of the Arab travelers’ victuals because it kept very well. Interestingly, for some pre-Islamic Arab tribes, it had a rather peculiar use. It was made into idols, which they worshiped, and when pressed by hunger they ate it without having any qualms. Think of all the flies that such gods might have attracted while still ‘in business’! I wonder if there is any connection between such ancient practices and the worship of Beelzebub ‘Lord of Flies’. (recipe follows)

Date Sweetmeat

¼ cup butter (half stick)
2 cups pitted chopped dates, or date paste
½ cup crushed ka’k (dry Middle-Eastern cookies) or graham crackers
½ teaspoon ground cardamom, fennel, and coriander seed, each
½ cup nuts of your choice

In a heavy frying pan, melt butter on medium heat. Add dates, and mix and mash with the back of a spoon. If dates are a bit dry, add a little hot water to soften them. While mashing, gradually sprinkle in the crushed ka’k or graham crackers, cardamom, fennel, and coriander (total time 7 to 10 minutes). Then spread the mixture on a flat tray or plate, about ½ inch thick. Press the nuts well on the entire surface, and when cool enough, cut into squares and serve. Or, you can shape date-mix into walnut-size balls and roll in crushed nuts.

 

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