in memory of Ivy – date nut loaf

September 21, 2013

Ivy's Date Nut Loaf

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 yourΒ 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 egg
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 pansΒ – bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the tops springs back. Set to cool on a wire rack.

Date Nut Loaves 1

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  • Reply suzanne September 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    What a great story, Ivy sounds like a wonderfully eccentric and colorful person, the date loaves look wonderful. I just love medjool dates!!

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen September 21, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      Those dates are like candy aren’t they? I love them too. And yes, Ivy was a character. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply tinywhitecottage September 21, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Nothing like having fear placed in you when moving to a new country! πŸ™‚ Fun memories for sure. I love how simple the recipe appears. Sounds like you have lived in quite a few interesting places.

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen September 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      Simple is my mantra! πŸ™‚ And I truly loved Ivy although she did strike terror in my heart. It’s funny – all these different places – and each time I think, “Hmmm – is this home?” But Kingston truly is MY home… and it’s a wonderful thing to know where home really is. xo

  • Reply Pearl September 21, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    you have such a gift for telling stories.

    and the date loaf looks simple and delicious. and another reason to buy walnuts.

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen September 21, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      That is the nicest thing I’ve ever heard. Seriously. thank you so much. What a darling you are!

  • Reply johnnysenough hepburn September 21, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Yep, I had a neighbour like Ivy whilst going through art college. Except for one big difference. There were never any baked goodies.
    – Got to try this recipe as I love dates. And have yet to cook with them. Although I’m developing an old British recipe for a date crunch. Which I still haven’t finished πŸ™‚

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen September 21, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Beautiful baking can make a difference!! Ivy won me over with her date nut loaf and lamingtons!
      Looking forward to your date crunch. And how is that chocolate cheesecake? Did it set?

      • Reply johnnysenough hepburn September 22, 2013 at 12:08 pm

        Yes! Set beautifully. Thanks for asking. Just not sure if it’ll go with the base I made. Hmm, still haven’t tried to remove it from its dish, either. Could be a very loud ‘ouch’ moment, followed by merry tantrums. Such are my Sundays πŸ™‚

      • Reply Johnny Hepburn December 23, 2013 at 12:38 pm

        And Ivy lives on through her baking. I’m happily munching my way through the first of two loaves baked last night. Quite simply one of the best tea breads I’ve eaten. Perfect crumb & crust and the texture is just right. As for the sweetness, even though I cut back on the sugar, the dark muscovado used (first time to use it) is perfect! Here’s to Ivy. And a massive thanks to you for sharing something this good πŸ™‚

  • Reply Tonette Joyce September 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Oh, Gosh, there’s always one around like Ivy! This recipe looks wonderful and as much as I would like to have had the fancy dates,I am glad you gave it to the person who needed the story! I love it!

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen September 21, 2013 at 11:48 pm

      So true! There is an always an Ivy – although they don’t always bake for you. It’s much better when they bake and share. You can put up with the doom and gloom and horror stories then. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Darya September 22, 2013 at 2:31 am

    I loved reading about Ivy and your life in Melbourne! Such a character! I once had a neighbor who loved to bring me food she cooked, except she was the kind who made quiches with old, mouldy scraps of cheese, expired cream, etc. Otherwise, she was a nice lady.
    And the date loaf… oh la la. I adore dates, especially the soft, sweet kinds (have you tried Mazafati dates from Iran?). This sounds so simple and perfect for the fall. Beautiful!

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen September 24, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      Thanks Darya – it is always lovely to see you here and much appreciated.
      Quiche from mouldy scraps sounds a bit dodgy!
      And no I have not tried Mazafati dates from Iran – but now I definitely want to! I will watch for them.

  • Reply Eliza B September 24, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Ivy sounds like a great lady- even if she was a bit paranoid. Spiders are evil though, and large enough in Australia to snatch newborns as well. Basically, I think spiders were the cause of all the newborn thievery.

    On a date related note, dates are the best food in any form and I look forward to sticking this in my recipe file. Looks wonderful for breakfast, tea, snacks, constant eating, etc.

  • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen September 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Oh Eliza – I’m still so glad you’re back. This comment made me laugh – the bit about spiders in Australia being large enough to snatch newborns. Also made me glad I returned to Canada where the spiders are, pffffftttt, pathetic really!

  • Reply radhika25 October 4, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Catching up with my reading after a 3 week break! Your date loaf look scrumptious! Don’t think I used that since I read Enid Blyton!
    And nice story πŸ™‚

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen October 4, 2013 at 6:28 am

      Ahhh I used to love Enid Blyton! That was your date souk story btw – thank you. You set my imagination off. How I’d love to wander though a date souk.. and perhaps I will yet! πŸ˜‰

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