January seems like a good time to feature a recipe for one of my favourite healthy snacks. The cliche is that people start in on rigorous diet and exercise regimes in the early days of the new year, only to have given up by the end of the month; we certainly see a change in what people are ordering at this time of year, with the richer, creamier dishes falling out of favour, a downturn in cake sales and an increase in special requests for vegan/low-carb/etc. menu adaptations. It’s easy to mock, it seems – I can’t help but notice how much scorn has been heaped upon the ‘clean-eating’ movement from certain quarters (most recently Jay Rayner in the Observer Food Monthly). This bothers me a bit because I think that everyone should be allowed to eat whatever makes them feel at their best, without judgment from people without any scientific qualifications claiming that there is no science to validate the way they feel. I happen to think there are worse character faults than a desire to lead a healthy life and inspire others (I can think of plenty of other people more deserving of public scorn). I also think that if you’re not convinced by a particular argument about a particular way to eat, then ignore it. Keep eating how you want to eat. Or do your own research. Don’t forget to take into consideration what you enjoy eating and what works for you. We have always tried to make Mill Kitchen inclusive for people with various dietary needs and to reflect a sense of balance across the menu; plenty of plants, but plenty of cake as well, so people can make their own choices. Hopefully there is something for everyone.
Back to the dates! You can enjoy these all year round, but there are some lovely fresh dates available at the moment which makes it all the better – either way, you want one of the bigger, softer varieties like medjool. It’s a bit much to call this a ‘recipe’ but it is a great quick fix to remember if you’re tempted by something you’d rather not be. Stay strong, January resolvers!
Stuffed chocolate dates
6 large dates, e.g. medjool
6 big spoonfuls of peanut, almond or other nut butter
about 75g dark chocolate
sprinkles, optional: I have a chocolate chai mix I like to sprinkle on top which makes it feel appropriately wintery. You could also try: sesame seeds, bee pollen, desiccated coconut, cocoa nibs.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water or in the microwave. Pull a date open along one side and remove the pit. Shove a big spoonful of nut butter into the middle and squash it closed. Drop the stuffed date into the melted chocolate and stir until it’s coated. Spoon it out and put it onto a plate or tray (you can oil it lightly to stop them sticking). Repeat with the remaining dates. Sprinkle your toppings on, if you’re using any. Put the plate into the fridge for a few hours to set.