Roast butternut squash stuffed with Medjool dates, cashew nuts and cilantro couscous

I just love winter food especially when it’s anything to do with butternut squash. This one is from Skye Gyngall and is gorgeous with such interesting flavors.

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Serves 2 and could easily be augmented

1 small butternut squash
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
a decent drizzle of olive oil
a good splosh of white wine
sea salt and ground black pepper

For the stuffing

6 oz instant couscous
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 small leek, finely sliced
4oz cashew nuts
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 cardamon pod, crushed open with the flat of a knife
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tsp hot curry powder
6 Medjool dates, chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1/2 bunch fresh mint
juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel the squash, cut it in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves in a shallow roasting dish and sprinkle over the garlic slivers and thyme. Drizzle over the olive oil, pour over the white wine and season with salt and pepper.
Cover with foil and roast in an oven preheated to 350 F for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for about 10 more minutes until the squash is tender.
This may take a little longer depending on the size of your squash. Check it’s doneness as you would a potato and remove from the oven. Leave the oven on.

While the squash is cooking, prepare the stuffing.
Put the couscous in a bowl, pour over about 1/2 cup cold water or chicken broth and leave to soak.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the shallot, leek, cashews, mustard seeds, cardamon pod, ginger, coconut and curry powder and fry gently until the shallot is soft and the aroma from the spices is making you hungry!
Turn up the heat and add the couscous to the pan, stirring thoroughly.
Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and leave to cook for 10 minutes.
Stir again to fluff up the grains, then add the dates, herbs and lemon juice and season to taste.
Stuff the squash with the couscous and return to the oven for about 20 minutes.
Serve immediately

Orange-scented quinoa salad with pistachios and dates

Another beautiful healthy and tasty Summer salad. I can’t have enough of these and am always looking for more of these interesting recipes. We love eating them with a piece of marinated and barbequed fish or chicken.

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Serves 4

6 oz (175 g) quinoa or red quinoa, rinsed
1 oz (30g) shelled pistachios
5 tbsp 70ml) fresh orange juice, plus finely grated zest 1 orange
4 tbsp (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1 scant tsp Dijon mustard
6 green onions, very finely sliced
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 large bunch watercress, tough stalks removed
10 ready-to-eat dates, chopped
Optional- goat cheese or Greek feta cheese to toss through or sprinkle over it

Bring 3 cups (500 mls) water (or 1/2 water and 1/2 broth of your choice) to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa and reduce the heat to low, then cover and cook for 18-20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork and spread over a large plate to cool.

Meanwhile, in a dry frying pan, toast the pistachios until fragrant and starting to brown. Cool, then coarsely chop.

To make the dressing, whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, mustard and vinegar and season well.

To assemble the salad, put the quinoa in a serving bowl and toss with half the dressing. Fork through the orange zest, green onions, herbs, watercress, dates, chopped pistachios and enough of the remaining dressing to coat. Taste and add more salt, pepper and/or dressing if needed, then serve.

Roasted dates with pancetta, almonds and chile

A gorgeous recipe from chef, Michael Symon. Simple, but so addictive.
Sliced almonds and red pepper flakes are added to sauteing pancetta and then spooned over roasted dates. The intensity of the flavors from the sweetness of the dates through the saltiness of the pancetta, the nuttiness of the almonds and the spicy heat from the chile is such a great combination on the tongue.

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Serves 4 to 6

2 cups pitted dates
3 oz pancetta, finely diced (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup Chicken Stock
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

 Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the dates on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until heated through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the dates in there while you cook the pancetta.

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it is three-quarters crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the almonds and continue cooking until they brown, a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the red pepper flakes and stock and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, stirring continuously until the butter is melted. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley.
Add the dates to the pan and swirl and toss them in the sauce. Divide the cooked dates among four to six plates and spoon the sauce over them.


Bacon wrapped dates with almonds and goat cheese

Unctious, divine and so easy.

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24 large moist dates, such as Medjool
12 not-too-thick slices of bacon
2 oz. softened goat cheese
24 whole toasted unsalted almonds

Move oven rack to upper third of oven and preheat oven to 500°. Pit dates, tearing them open as little as possible. Set dates aside. Halve the 12 slices of bacon crosswise. Put the goat cheese into a pastry bag fitted with a round, plain ¼” tip.

Stuff cavity of each date with 1 almond. Pipe goat cheese into the opening of each stuffed date. Wrap 1 half-piece of bacon around width of each date and put dates, seam side down, on a baking sheet, at least ½” apart. Bake until bacon is golden and crisp, 6-8 minutes.
Set aside to cool briefly before serving.

Date and oat crumb bars

I love something sweet at the end of a meal, and these are sweet, gooey and crunchy all at the same time. You will love them and so will the family.

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Makes about 8 servings

1lb Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup honey
1 cup water
1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Bring the dates, honey, water and 1 tbsp butter to a boil, remove from the heat and let sit until they cool down to room temperature
Puree in a food processor until smooth
Mix the rolled oats, flours, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
Stir in the melted butter until it forms crumbs
Press half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of a greased 8 inch square pan
Spread the date mixture on and top with the remaining crumbs
Bake in the oven for 25 mins

Radicchio, banana and avocado salad with dates and a ginger- lime dressing

This is very unusual but sensational. Bananas and avocado have a very similar texture and the Asian dressing lends itself really well to this combination. I would love to hear what you think of it.
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Serves 6 as a starter.

2 medium heads of radicchio
6 Medjool dates, pitted
2 firm bananas
2 ripe avocados

For the dressing
3 tbsp safflower oil
2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tsp Asian chile sauce
1 tbsp finely minced ginger
1 tbsp chopped mint leaves
1 tbsp chopped cilantro sprigs

Pull apart the radicchio leaves, then tear away and discard the bitter white stem area; you should have abut 4 cups. Keep in the fridge until you’re ready to make the dish.
Thinly slice the dates. In a small bowl combine all the dressing ingredients and refrigerate until needed.
When ready to serve, slice the bananas and cut the avocado flesh into 1/4 slices. Stir the dressing, place the radicchio in a bowl and toss with just enough of the dressing to barely coat the leaves.
Transfer the leaves to salad plates and put the dates, banana and avocado slices in the same bowl, add the rest of the dressing and very gently toss together.
Place this mixture on top of the radicchio and serve at once.

Roast chicken with dates, olives and capers

Thanks again to the incredible Yotam Ottolenghi for another Middle Eastern winner. The combination of sweet dates, briny green olives and tart capers, complements this dish so beautifully. It is best to prepare this dish 2 days before you need to serve it and leave it in the fridge to marinate so all the wonderful flavors permeate the chicken


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Preheat the oven to 350 F
8 whole chicken legs, drumstick and thigh attached and skin on.
5 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 oz fresh oregano, plus extra for garnish
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
4 oz pitted green olives
2 oz capers, plus 2 tbsp of their juices
3 oz Medjool dates, pitted and and quartered lengthways
2 bay leaves
4 fl oz dry white wine
1 tbsp date syrup or treacle
Salt and black pepper

Place the chicken in a large, non reactive bowl and add all of the ingredients, apart form the wine and date molasses, along with 3/4 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper.
Gently mix everything together, cover the bowl and leave in the fridge to marinate for 1 to 2 days, stirring the ingredients a few times during the process.
Spread out the chicken legs on a large baking tray, along with all the marinade ingredients. Whisk together the wine and date syrup/treacle and pour over the meat. Place in the oven and cook for 50 minutes, basting 2 or 3 times, until the meat is golden brown on top and cooked through.
Remove from the oven, transfer everything to a large warm platter, sprinkle over some freshly picked oregano leaves and serve.


Roasted cauliflower with dates, pine nuts and prosciutto served with caper aioli

I am a cauliflower fanatic and just love different ways of serving it. You’ll love this briny, creamy aioli which is very easy to make, and the combination of the toasty cauliflower, sweet dates, salty prosciutto and nutty pine nuts, is divine.


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Serves 4
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 oz prosciutto, sliced thick and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Combine the cauliflower, prosciutto, dates, olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes in a large mixing bowl. Mix well to coat and place on a sheet pan.
Place in the top part of the oven and roast until the cauliflower is fork tender and light brown, about 30 to 40 mins. Remove from the oven, transfer to a decorative bowl and scatter with the freshly toasted pine nuts. Serve with the caper aioli on the side.


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Caper aioli
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp capers, chopped
1 tsp caper brine
1 tbsp chopped parsley leaves

Rub the inside of a decorative bowl with the garlic clove.
Put the mayonnaise, salt, olive oil, capers, caper brine and parsley in a mixing bowl and mix well together to combine. transfer to the decorative bowl and serve with the roasted cauliflower



Sticky chicken with sherry, almonds & dates

Tender, sticky roasted whole chicken legs coated in a lip-smacking glaze. Also ideal for feeding a crowd

Serves 8
3 tbsp olive oil
8 whole chicken legs (including the thigh)
2 large onions, chopped
15 garlic cloves, left whole in their skins
1 heaped tsp ground cumin (I roast mine)
8 fl oz (or 1 cup) sherry, like Manzanilla or Oloroso
zest and juice of 1 large lemon, plus extra zest to serve
3 oz whole blanched almonds, (I used Marcona) roughly chopped
12 large soft dates, like Medjool, pitted and chopped
2 oz pack flat -leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 400 F
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan.
Season the chicken then brown it on all sides.
Remove the chicken, place it in a large baking dish then set aside.
Add the remaining oil, onions and garlic to the pan and season.
Fry for 10 minutes until glden.
Stir in the cumin, sherry, lemon juice and zest. Bring to the boil then add the almonds, dates and half the parsley.
Pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover with foil, then roast for 1 hour until tender, taking the foil off after 15 minutes of cooking.
Spoon the liquid over the chicken a couple of times during the roasting.
Serve piled up on a large platter with the sauce poured over, the garlic cloves, remaining parsley and some extra lemon zest.
This is lovely served with a nice, tasty quinoa or couscous dish


Heavenly one bowl apple cake


This is a dark, dense, gooey apple cake. The one extra step in this recipe is for soaking the dates in Apple Brandy or Calvados.

Serves 12 to 16
3/4 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup Calvados or apple brandy
2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
4 cups slightly tart apples; peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1/2 cup melted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
icing sugar for decorations

About 1 hour before starting to bake, place the dates in a small bowl and cover with the Calvados or apple brandy. Stir from time to time and if they get too “tight” just add more brandy.
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Using butter, grease a baking pan. (approx 13″ x 9″ x 2″)
Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Add the chopped apples, dates, melted butter and the eggs. This will be a heavy, thick batter, but don’t worry, just make sure you mix it well together.
Spread in the prepared pan, place on a rack in the center of the oven and bake for 1 hour.
Test with a skewer, if it comes out a bit gooey, then bake for another 5 to 10 mins.
It will be a nice dark color  and should spring back to a light touch.
Serve with some icing sugar (powdered sugar) sprinkled over the top. This is delicious hot, warm or cold.