I have mentioned before that I’ve lived in several countries throughout my life and this has definitely influenced me in so many ways, not the least of which is the food I enjoy. I carry recipes and food traditions with me from everywhere I’ve lived and today’s recipe is something I picked up from my time in Saudi Arabia. Hala qahwa, which translates to coffee dessert, doesn’t actually refer to a specific dessert, but rather to small, in many cases bite-sized desserts that are usually served with the deliciously bitter Arabic coffee.
Many of these desserts have dates in them, but they can be made out of anything. They are usually simple and easy and something you have lying around for a quick snack or an unexpected guest. Today I chose this layered date and biscuit dessert. What I love about it is that you could make it as simple or as complex as you like, either way, it is absolutely delicious. You can also make countless variations with it, changing up the spices and toppings. You could even completely dip it in chocolate; the possibilities are endless.
Making this dessert couldn’t be easier, and the best part is that you likely always have the ingredients in your pantry, ready to make whenever the craving hits. It is also a great Ramadan snack, as it is packed with protein and fibre, two things that make you feel fuller for longer. They are also traditional to eat and gift in Ramadan, so it is a perfect way to use up some extra dates you may have laying around by removing the pits and blitzing them in your food processor. You may need to add a little bit more butter than if you’re using readymade date paste.
When rolling the date paste out, make sure you roll it as evenly as possible. Then simply line up your biscuits and fold over, making sure to roll everything tightly, but not too tight that you break the biscuits! I like mine to have 3 layers of biscuits, as I love the crunch, but making them too high will make them harder to cut and eat. If you’d like to use more than one spice, simply divide the date paste and mix in the different spices. I used my favourite toppings today, but feel free to use whatever you like or even leave them plain if you prefer. Whatever you top them with, I’m sure this dessert will go right to the top of your to-make list for many Ramadans to come.
500 g date paste
50-70 g butter (room temperature)
Lotus biscuits (crushed)
- To make the date layer, knead together the date paste and butter, using as much or as little butter as is needed to get a soft paste. This will depend on the type of date paste you have.
- Mix in the spices you’d like. I like to make some with cinnamon and nutmeg and some with cardamom. Knead well to make sure the spices are well-distributed. Give it a taste and adjust to your liking.
- Roll out the date paste between two pieces of parchment paper to get a thin even layer. Cut the edges to get even sides.
- Arrange the tea biscuits in a horizontal line across the date paste, then fold over. Add another line of biscuits on top of the folded date paste, then fold over and continue until you have a final layer of the date past covering the biscuits.
- Cut into your desired shape and dip into your toppings. I’ve used some of my favourites, but feel free to get creative.
- Serve with a cup of coffee (or tea, I promise it’s allowed) and enjoy!
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