Recently I held a dinner party for all of our friends to celebrate mine and The Contemporary Builder’s 35th birthdays. It was an excuse to go all out. 30 guests, table linen, flowers, fairy lights and four courses. Plus celebrating the sale of my business and having friends over since the birth and homecoming of Thea months earlier was dramatically overdue. As a group our lives have changed intensly over the past few years, as we have paired off and become units of three and four, with the welcome addition of tiny versions of ourselves. The tiny people in our lives can make it tricky to meet up en masse, especially in the evening. So the date was set, the baby-sitters booked and the planning commenced. For the entree I wanted to put together an array of visually stunning canapés, presented on a long board that would run down the centre of the table. Something that would wow guests from the get go and set the scene for the evening.
I found inspiration for my entree among other places in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. A picture of a dip drizzled with a dark, glossy syrup and freckled with black and white sesame seeds caught my eye. Upon reading the recipe, the dip was butternut pumpkin, the method seemed straightforward, but the garnish. Date syrup. The combination sounded intriguing and I could imagine how the rich date liquid would set off the pumpkin dip. As it was an all out dinner party, I decided to challenge myself and have a go at my own homemade date syrup.
With only two ingredients, making date syrup is a simple process that requires time rather than action. I have successfully teamed it with my morning porridge and grilled goats cheese on toast. It transforms into a deliciously sticky salad dressing to go with a green salad, liberally tossed with sautéed sliced red onion and toasted, chopped almonds, when whisked together with some extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. I reckon over ice cream with some smashed nuts or rolled inside pancakes with cream would hit the spot too.
Ingredients-1 cup dates and 1 cup boiling water
Method-soak the dates in boiling water overnight. In the morning, place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and line it with a piece of cheese cloth or a Chux. Pour the date mix into the sieve. Bring the corners of the cloth together and squeeze out the liquid. To make sure I got all the liquid from the dates, I secured the cloth with an elastic band and then weighted it with a mortar and pestle, again overnight. In the morning, simply reduce the resulting liquid in a pan over a low heat (too high and the syrup boils over) for about 10 minutes.