After spending over a year here in the UAE, some of the local recipes started finding their way into my kitchen. To be honest, at first, the Emirati cuisine was hard to tackle for me because it is so different from the Levantine cuisine. While recipes in Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon focus heavily on vegetables (especially leafy greens), fruits, olive oil and a variety of grains and seeds, the Gulf cuisine focuses on rice based recipes for the main course and date based recipes for dessert with heavy use of ghee in both categories.
I have to admit that my expat nostalgia was making me focus on all that is missing rather than trying to enjoy what’s new and different.With time, I began to try new recipes without prejudgment and with those trials I found things that I liked and then things that I loved. The common denominator in all of them was the spice profile.
Due to their deep rooted relations with the far east that were established long ago through trade, spices became a very important part of the local cuisine. Warm eastern spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, dried lemons (loomy),and ginger are featured heavily in recipes throughout the gulf.
Today’s recipe is a traditional Emirati dessert usually served with coffee to provide a sweet balance to its bitterness. Batheeth or batheetha is served either in the form of a date based crumble or it is shaped into no bake cookies or balls usually incorporating nuts or sesame seeds.
Despite the simplicity of the recipe, the result is simply addictive. Starting with a good quality date paste that is the perfect canvas to build on by adding other flavors like whole wheat flour, cardamom, ginger and nuts. Whole wheat flour is nutty by nature but toasting it makes that nuttiness even more pronounced and adds an endearing aroma to the batheeth. Infusing the butter with cardamom allows its unique smokiness to permeate the entire mix. A little crunch from the walnuts, warmth from the ginger, richness from the butter and before you know it you’ll lose count of how many batheeth balls you’ve had
Before getting to the recipe, I’d like to tell you a little more about the date paste that I have used in this recipe. A few months ago the founder of Date ME boutique contacted me. She shares my vision on promoting the beauty of Middle Eastern heritage and culture. She sent me a sample of their date paste to try. Throughout our interaction, I loved their attention to details and personal touch that shines through everything from the packaging to the passion they have for their product.
Their date paste is really soft and smooth which makes it great for recipes like this one or like date bread rings, no bake date bars or maamoul . It tastes great and saves time because the alternative would be to pit whole dates, chop them, soak them then process them. A sticky, time consuming situation 🙂 I have also experimented with using the date paste in smoothies and dips as a natural sweetener instead of refined sugar. I will be sharing more recipes in the upcoming few weeks
I love using dates in recipes and adding them to my family’s diet when possible because of their health benefits.If you don’t use them, then you may want to read up on their nutritional value:
- Dates are rich in dietary fiber, which prevents LDL cholesterol absorption in the gut. Additionally, the fiber works as a bulk laxative. It, thus, helps to protect the colon mucous membrane from cancer-causing chemicals binding to it in the colon.
- They are easily digestible which means they replenish energy and revitalize the body instantly
- They contain health benefiting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants known as tannins. Tannins are known to possess anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic (prevent easy bleeding tendencies) properties.
- Dates are an excellent source of iron, carry 0.90 mg/100 g of fruits (about 11% of RDI). That’s why they are great for people suffering from anemia
- Dates are rich in minerals like calcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium.
- Dates have a moderate levels of B-complex group of vitamins as well as vitamin K. It contains very good amounts of pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin.
So the next time you go shopping, pick up some dates or date paste and give this recipe a try. It is really quick and easy to prepare. They are lunch box friendly, a few batheeth balls can make a great sweet treat for kids. If you let the kids help out with the rolling and with selecting the nuts or seeds to roll the batheeth balls in,they are more likely to eat them
- 2 cups date paste (I used DateME boutique date paste)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup walnuts chopped
- 5-7 cardamom pods bruised
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1. Place the flour in a large heavy based pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden brown- about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
2.Melt the butter, add the cardamom pods and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add the date paste to the flour, return to the heat and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften the dates.
4.Remove the cardamom pod from the melted butter and discard.
5.Add the butter to the flour mixture along with the ground ginger. Stir well to combine then remove from heat and leave to cool.
6.If making date balls: when the mixture is cool enough to handle, shape tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls with your hands or use cookie molds to shape them.You can roll the shaped balls in your choice of nuts or seeds