Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hazelnut date balls

date ball cardamom recipe

Life has been moving in slow motion since yesterday, the first day of Ramadan. The first few days are the toughest; the body is thirsty and the mind is parched. But there is a psychological factor at play. Our long days are usually broken up by meals. When you are working, you look forward to that lunch break. Visions of what to have for lunch floats in your mind. And the comfort of a hot latte is irreplaceable when you are feeling stressed. All that is taken away during Ramadan.

Just as I evolve as a person, what powers me through the day of fasting has gone through a metamorphosis. At seven years old, I fasted because I wanted to be just like the grown-ups and because my mum told me it was the only way to deserve celebrating Hari Raya. Coming home from school, I threw my bag aside and immediately sought the couch so that I could lay there until break fast - I did not intend to move for the four hours leading to the magical Maghrib minute. As a teenager, fasting, for me, was about peer pressure and the challenge of doing something that my friends of other faith thought impossible. So, yes, a little pride was involved. Up until my twenties, fasting was just something you do and not questioned.

But now, I am conscious of the purpose of the fast. When a hunger pang hits, I am reminded of the reason why we do this. It allows us to empathize with those for whom hunger is the norm. Instead of giving in to the feelings of irritation, impatience and volatility that I experience with hunger, I remind myself that it is a fast not only of food, but of my emotions as well. At the end of each day, I am thankful that I completed the fast and I am grateful for the food before me. So life in slow motion is actually welcomed - it allows me to refocus my faith and the quiet turns me inwards for self-reflection.

Date is a traditional fruit eaten to break our fast. It is incredibly nutritional - good source of dietary fiber and rich in vitamins. I used not to like it because I found it too sweet. But a few years ago, while visiting my friend Kristen in Santa Fe, she made these date balls for desserts. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. So I made them to break our fast with. She used almonds, but I decided to try it with hazelnuts. I think you can substitute with whatever nuts you have. I grounded the nuts with a mortar and pestle, but next time, I am going to leave the nuts a little chunkier.

date ball cardamom recipe

The unexpected ingredient is the cardamom. I am familiar with cardamom as a spice in Indian cooking. Here, I was surprised that it added a refreshing note to the sweetness of the date. I also had fun crushing the skin of the cardamom. I usually cook with them whole. The seeds look similar to vanilla beans. I used a mortar and pestle to grind them, but you can also buy ground cardamom. Alternatively, use cinnamon if you are not fond of the taste of cardamom. I shaped the dates into bite-sized pieces; you can make them into bigger 2-inch pieces.

date ball cardamom recipe

Hazelnut date balls

1 cup date, chopped finely
½ cup hazelnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon cardamom or ¾ teaspoon ground cardamom*
3 tablespoon dessicated coconut

1. If using whole cardamom, use a pestle to crush each cardamom. When the skin breaks, remove the seeds. Then use a mortar and pestle to ground the cardamom seeds. To toast the dessicated coconut, put in a dry pan on low heat and stir occasionally until light brown.

2. Using clean hands, mix the date, hazelnut and ground cardamom until well-incorporated . Pinch a small amount and roll between palms into a ball with a diameter of about 1 inch.

3. When all the date mixture is shaped, roll half of them in the dessicated coconut.

* substitute with cinnamon if you don't have/like cardamom

Makes 14


Kevin said...

Those look good! I really like to these kinds of dried fruit and nut based treats! I am going to have to try the cardamom next time.

pietra said...

I adore cardamom!

high over happy said...

Hi Kevin, I was at your blog last week looking at your fruitcake recipe from last year. I baked one but its marinating in orange juice right now.

Pietra - I am beginning to feel the same way!

anita said...

That's a great photo of a cardamom! I never knew what it looked like inside the green skin.

jordan. said...

I like baking with cardamom. And playing with the pods. Very nice recipe.

high over happy said...

Thanks jordan. You don't have to bake these though :)

KONICHIWA! said...

VERY yummy looking dessert you got there.

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