In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates a healthy snack thought to have been enjoyed in Egypt around 3,500 years ago.
If you, like me, have a sweet tooth but are trying to be healthier then try tiger nut balls.
I found lots of references to this being one of the first Egyptian recipes that we know of, found written on an ancient ostraca (inscribed broken pottery) dating back to 1600 BC. Although I haven’t found a definitive source for this (or why tiger nut balls don’t contain tiger nuts!) they sounded too delicious to pass over. As your average ancient Egyptian seems to have had a very sweet tooth and often added dates and honey to desserts, I like to think that this is a sweet that would have been made thousands of years ago.
This recipe is very straightforward, requires no cooking and is a lot fun to make (ideal for younger members of the household who might want to help).
• 200g fresh dates (I used dried, which worked really well)
• 1 tsp cold water
• 10–15 walnut halves
• ¼ tsp of cinnamon
• small jar of runny honey
• 75g ground almonds
Chop the dates finely (use seedless, or make sure to remove the stones first) and put them into a bowl. Add the water and stir. Then mix in the chopped walnuts and the cinnamon.
Shape the mixture into small balls with your hands. Dip the balls in honey (I warmed it first so the honey coating wouldn’t be quite so thick) then roll the balls in the ground almonds.
Chill them in the fridge for half an hour before serving.
BBC history Magazine team verdict:
“Like historic energy balls.”
“I think Tiger nut balls roar with flavour.”
“They’re as indulgent as a chocolate truffle!”
Time: 45 mins
Recipe courtesy of Cook it!
This article was first published in the January 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine.