When I first moved to Australia, years ago, I lived in a funny little flat in Melbourne. My neighbour, Ivy, who was alternately cranky and sweet, used to scare the life out of me with horrifying tales of poisonous spiders and snakes and staggering crime statistics. “Careful that baby doesn’t get snatched right out the window,” she said, as I moved into the flat with my baby girl in arms. “We’ve had a whole raft of babies stolen in Melbourne lately – you’ll need to keep your windows locked.”
That was my introduction to Australia.
Thankfully things got better. I kept the windows and doors locked and in time, I got on with my life without worrying full-time about Ivy’s horror stories.
Luckily Ivy was an excellent baker and often gave me samples. A very redeeming quality. Her date nut loaf was fantastic – one of my favourites. Especially when slathered in butter and served with tea. When I moved out of the flat, she gave me the recipe below.
Eventually after many moves backwards and forwards between Australia and Canada – I lost touch with Ivy. She’d be well into her second century now if she was still alive. But her memory lives on every time I make this loaf, which is often.
In August, I posted a Medjool date give-away. I had so many wonderful responses – thank you! I heard about date souks in far-flung places – entire markets dedicated to selling all kinds of varieties of dates, stuffed dates, and chocolate covered dates; recipes for date cakes, squares, and cookies made by grandmothers and passed through the generations; and also some funny stories about dates gone wrong. And my favourite – “Sadly, I don’t have a single interesting date story to share. But if you send me that date voucher – I’ll finally have a great date story.” So that person is getting a date voucher. And the other is going to the person who wrote to tell me, “I made your cheese stuffed dates for an appetizers-only pot-luck dinner and they were the favourite dish at the party.”
Thanks to everyone who wrote – so lovely.Thank you Medjool for the vouchers! And thank you Ivy – for the recipe and the memories.
Ivy’s Date Nut Loaf (this recipe also appears in A Taste of Wintergreen, page 104)
2 cups cooking dates, chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp salt
Sprinkle the baking soda over the dates and cover with boiling water. Stir briefly and let cool while attending to the rest of the recipe.
Heat oven to 325 deg F and liberally grease a loaf pan or four mini loaf pans.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Stir in the date mixture.
Add the flour, chopped nuts and salt.
Pour or spoon into the greased pans. For the large loaf – bake for about 50 minutes or until the top springs back when touched lightly. If using mini loaf pans – bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the tops springs back. Set to cool on a wire rack.