Every now and then I take a trip down memory lane and delve through a pile of tattered, half forgotten recipes relegated for safe keeping deep in my kitchen drawer. It’s a pleasant way to spend a lazy afternoon. So many keepers waiting to be resurrected when the timing is right. So far I’ve unearthed a much loved Raspberry and Hazelnut Linzertorte Slice, a perfectly smooth and creamy Old-fashioned Fudge just like grandma used to make and a luscious Chocolate Date and Nut Torte that was de rigeur through the nineties.
Today I treated my family to a hefty dose of childhood nostalgia; the curiously named but seriously delicious Chinese Chews. A rich and luscious ginger and lemon scented treat studded with soft dates and crunchy walnuts. Whilst there is nothing remotely Chinese sounding about the recipe at first glance, it is said to date back to the 1950’s so perhaps the ingredients were considered exotic and oriental for those times.
The only tweak I made to the tattered recipe scribbled on a scrap of paper, providence unknown, was to substitute two tablespoons of preserved ginger for the required teaspoon of ground. Interestingly the original recipe also suggested that once cooled the slice be cut into dainty little 2 cm squares. By my rough and ready reckoning my 20cm square tin should have yielded something like 100 little Chinese Chews. Try as I might I managed just 64. Whether this is perhaps reflection of my knife skills or my greedy eye I’ll never know. What is certain is that I will definitely be making these again.
Munching through that first batch of Chinese Chews it occurred to me that a more contemporary rendition of the recipe could quite easily be a Date Walnut, Ginger and Lemon Blondie. Sliced, of course, into much, much larger squares to accommodate a modern appetite.
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dates, finely chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
2 tablespoons naked (uncrystallised) preserved ginger, finely diced (or substitute 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
125g butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
a little icing sugar, for dusting
PREHEAT oven to 170C. Grease a 20cm square baking tin and line with baking paper.
PLACE the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan and melt, stirring over a low-medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside until cool enough to touch.
IN A LARGE bowl sift together flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Stir in chopped dates, walnuts, preserved ginger and lemon zest.
IN A JUG whisk together the eggs and cooled, melted butter and sugar mixture. Pour wet ingredients over dry, beating with a wooden spoon until well combined.
USING a spatula spread the thick, sticky batter evenly into the prepared baking tin.
BAKE for 25-30 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Cool then cut into squares. Dust with icing sugar and store in an airtight container.