Thursday, 14 March 2013

Date Paste

Dates are regularly used as a sweetener in Roman meals, alongside the likes of honey and grape syrup.  If Pliny the Elder's list is anything to go by, they had a lot of varieties to choose from - some juicy and fruity and sweet, others not so much.

Dates are usually listed with the liquids of the recipe, which has led some to conclude that it must be a date paste or syrup which is used, rather than the whole fruit.  I am inclined to agree with this; in my own experience you get more flavour from the paste than from just the fruit.  It is also easier to use, which helps speed up the cooking process.

You can choose between shop-bought Date Syrup, or home-made Date Paste.


Date paste is sweet, flavoured like the fruit it is made from.  However, because water is added when the paste is made, the taste of dates is more subtle than might be expected.  Date syrup on the other hand has a very strong flavour.  It is also much darker than the paste.

Finding It

Date syrup can generally be found in health-food stores.  If, like me, you don't have a local health-food shop then online is your answer.
Date paste, which I prefer, can be made at home very easily.  The great thing about making it for yourself is that you can make as much or as little as you want.   You'll need:

  • A handful of dates (pits removed)
  • Enough boiling water to cover them

  • Soak the dates in boiling water for half an hour.
  • Pour away most of the water so that only 2 or 3 tbsps are left.
  • Blend (or mortar and pestle) it all together!
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week or so.  If you want to freeze it, put it into a sandwich bag and spread it quite thinly.  This means that you can break off as much as you need, when you need it.


If your blender is broken, your mortar and pestle is on the fritz, and the postman keeps eating all your date syrup before it gets to you, then you can just use dried dates.  It might be a good idea to chop them up so that the flavour has a chance to shine. If you cannot find any dates, then use some honey instead!

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