Life’s sweet, naturally.

What is it

A small, caramel-coloured dried stone fruit, approximately 5 cm long.


It’s easy to lose your mind in the date section of a supermarket–Dayri, Barhi, or Medjool. In our cooking, we mainly use Medjool. Fresh Medjool dates are wrinkly but not hard. Look for ones that are plump and have a glossiness to their skin. Avoid any dates that have crystallised sugar on their skins (a little whiteness is okay).


They’ll last up to a month when stored in an airtight container at room temperature. But their taste may diminish over time–for optimal flavour, eat within a week.


Dates are small, dried stone fruit. They have a warm, honey-like sweetness – like a bigger, jammier more caramel-y raisin. They’re an amazing source of natural sugar and while Britain goes gaga for them around Christmas, Middle Eastern households enjoy them all year round, arranged on silver plates ready for guests.

Dates grow on trees called date palms. They grow in clusters, like grapes, which hang over fifty feet off the ground; the dates cure slightly on the tree before harvesting so they last longer once picked. These are the ‘fresh dates' available in supermarkets, speciality stores and farmers markets.

From celebrating new life to breaking fasts during Ramadan, dates play a big role in daily life all over the Middle East. But why are they so good? Probably because they’re so sweet–the sugar content in dates is so high and gets higher the more they dry.


Dates add a sweet, caramel touch to both sweet and savoury dishes. But first, you’ve got to de-pit: slice lengthwise and pop the small pit out. They’re brilliant for baking. Dates are a natural alternative to sugar; with a caramel-like sweetness, yes, but also a moisture and chewy texture. It’s like the Golden Syrup of the Middle East. But there’s no need to limit dates to simply sweet flavours–try chopping them into a salad with a mixture of nuts, or stuff them with feta and serve as a canapé.

“Chef, if you could only use dates for sweet or savoury dishes, which would it be?”

For Milli, nothing beats the combination of dates and meat. Like in our chicken, date, orange and split pea tray bake.