The rules of my Muesli Bar Challenge series are that the Challenger must be healthy (low in sugar and saturated fat, low GI, wholegrain), based on in-season fresh produce, easy enough to be a realistic option for busy parents and kids themselves to make, and rated by my school age reviewers as no-way-going-to-be-left-in-the-lunchbox.
So many choices for a recipe for this week!
It is the turning point in the seasons – my strawberries and mulberries and pawpaws are still green but so close that a bit of warm weather will bring them on, and I haven’t yet finished with all the macadamias, oranges, mandarins, limes and tangelos that are all still just finishing their season. The cockatoos have finished off the bush lemons (which are the sweetest, much like a Meyer but hardier) but we still have plenty of Eureka lemons. What to feature?
In the end I’ve decided to go with this adaption of a traditional recipe that uses macadamias along with the date and orange combination that was so successful last week. The recipe takes more time than most of this series, but it is easy in the sense that even young kids can manage much of the making, and will probably love helping.
Traditional Lebanese cooks probably should turn away now. I have taken huge liberties with a traditional Middle Eastern sweet. These little pastry mouthfuls are tradionally a bite sized ball of sweet shortbread surrounding a date, almond, fig or pistachio filling. But for a lunch box treat, the dates and orange juice provide nearly all the sweetness needed, and macadamias make the most wonderful shortbread, smooth and buttery and melt-in-your-mouth, and they’re super healthy at the same time.
So this is a very non-traditional Ma-amoul that fits the rules of the Muesli Bar Challenge.
First crack your macadamias. I’ve written before about this little tool that takes macadamias in shell from “too hard” to “seasonal staple”. Like all nuts, if you buy them fresh, in season, in shell, (or grow your own) you will be amazed how different they are to the stale, slightly rancid things you get in packets in mid-summer.
You need 125 grams, or about a cup of macadamia kernels. They will blend quite easily in a food processor into a fine meal.
To the maca meal, add
- 3 dessertspoons of cold butter,
- 3 dessertspoons of brown sugar,
- 2 teaspoons of finely grated orange zest, and
- ¾ of a cup of wholemeal plain flour.
Process until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Then add cold water, a dessertspoon at a time, until you can knead it into a soft dough. Add carefully – you can’t take it out – but when you have a dough that just holds together, add another spoonful. You want a dough that is soft but not quite sticky.
Put your dough in the freezer for a few minutes while you make the filling.
In a small saucepan, bring to the boil 100 grams (2/3 cup) of stoned dates and 100 ml of orange juice. Tip into your food processor and blend briefly till it is minced but not smooth.
Now here’s the bit that kids will love doing.
Break off a piece of dough, large macadamia sized or slightly larger, and roll it into a ball. Push your thumb into the ball and hollow out the inside like making a little pot. (Mudpie making practice will help here). You should be able to fit a good half teaspoon or more of filling into the pot, then squeeze the top shut, roll it into a ball shape again, and roll the ball in a little raw sugar.
Put the Ma-amoul seam-side down on a greased biscuit tray and bake them in a medium oven for about 30 minutes until they are browned. Cool on the tray (they will crispen up as they cool). Store in an airtight container, but not for long, because they will disappear.