Spicy date, apple and ricotta dip

    30 min

    The natural sweetness of dates makes them an excellent sweetener in desserts, cakes and chutneys. Here they are cooked until smooth and pulpy with apple and aromatic spices to create a dip to serve with fruit and vegetable pieces. Alternatively, use this as an unusual topping for toast, scones or sweet crostini made with fruited bread.

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    Serves: 4 

    • 3 green cardamom pods
    • 1 Bramley cooking apple, about 225 g (8 oz), peeled and roughly chopped
    • 125 g (4½ oz) stoned dried dates, roughly chopped
    • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    • 250 g (9 oz) ricotta cheese
    • To serve
    • crudités such as wedges of red and green-skinned apples, carrot, celery and cucumber sticks, wedges of pineapple, seedless grapes and slices of starfruit.

    Prep:20min  ›  Cook:10min  ›  Ready in:30min 

    1. Lightly crush the cardamom pods with the flat side of a chef's knife to split them open, then remove the seeds. Discard the pods and crush the seeds with the side of the knife. (This can be done with a pestle and mortar.)
    2. Put the apple, dates, crushed cardamom seeds and cinnamon in a saucepan with 200 ml (7 fl oz) water. Bring to the boil over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the apples are cooked and the dates are pulpy. Stir the mixture occasionally during cooking.
    3. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. When the apple mixture is cold, beat in the ricotta cheese. Keep, covered, in the fridge until needed. (The dip will keep for 3–4 days.)
    4. Serve in a shallow bowl or dish surrounded by an assortment of fruit and vegetable crudités.

    Another idea

    To make a date, apple and orange dip, omit the ricotta cheese and instead beat in the grated zest and juice of 1 large orange. Pile into a bowl and serve surrounded with chunky wedges of apple and pear, and sticks of celery and carrot. * Use as a cake or pancake filling.

    Plus points

    Ricotta is an Italian cheese made from the whey drained off when making cheeses such as mozzarella. It has a high moisture content, which makes it lower in fat and calories than many other soft, creamy cheeses. * In common with all cheeses, ricotta is a good source of calcium, and it contains vitamins A and D. Less of these vitamins are present in low-fat cheeses such as ricotta – vitamin D is fat-soluble, so the less fat in the cheese, the less vitamin D – but the amounts are still useful. * The apple and dried dates provide useful amounts of fibre. * Both cinnamon and cardamom are spices that can help to relieve indigestion. Also, cinnamon acts as a nasal decongestant.

    Each serving provides

    Useful source of calcium, niacin, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin C.

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