Ranginak (Date Dessert)
Ranginak is a Southern Iranian dessert, but originates from Shiraz, the proud motherland of Hafez, the highly respected Sufi poet.
Hafez (1315-1390) is the most beloved figure of the Iranian people, with mysticism and love flowing through his poems. People find spiritual sustenance in his versus as they cite it by heart, while other devotees see him as more of an oracle. They open a book of his verse at random, read it and divine their fortune in his words, a tradition called fal-e Haafez فال حافظ, sometimes performed towards the end of gatherings by fellow romantics. I, too, engaged in this ritual as a curious teenager; even though viewed it as a folklore at the time, I have to say Hafez has been right so far.
To commemorate Hafez , in 1452, a dome shaped building was constructed near his grave, surrounded by gardens and a pool, as featured in his poetry. Later a marble slab was placed over the grave and engraved with excerpts from his poetry by a calligrapher. In 1899 a religious controversy among the Zoroastrians and Muslims left his memorial in ruins, which was eventually restored. The present-day pavilion was built in 1935, and if it reminds you of glamour and romance, that’s because the French architect, Andre Godard, was commissioned to complete the restoration.
As the story goes, young Hāfez worked in a bakery, and one day while delivering bread to the wealthy, he saw a woman of great beauty, with whom he fell in love, and addressed his poems to. Consumed by her beauty, yet knowing his love would not be reciprocated, Hafez held his first mystic vigil to fulfill his union with her, which further expanded into a pursuit of spiritual union with the Divine.
It Felt Love
How did the rose, ever open its heart
And give to this world
All its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being.
Otherwise, we all remain too frightened.
In the spirit of love and Valentine’s day, I thought we sweeten our mouths with words of Hafez, before we sweeten them with shirini (sweets). I hope Ranginak makes today a little more special to you, whether you’re celebrating it solo, with friends or a special someone.
To make this dessert start with dates. If they are soft and plum, like Medjool dates, slit them open with a knife; but if they are rather dry, wait ’till they are cooked in a bit of butter to soften them before cutting.
Brown rice flour can replace regular flour for gluten-free version, but your Ranginak may turn a bit loose and require a spoon or fingers to eat. We sure don’t mind the latter around here.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
- 24 dates (medjool or regular), slit open & pitted
- 12 walnut halves, cut into 2 pieces
- 1 cups flour (whole wheat, all purpose, or rice)
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 tsp fine sugar
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- Pistachios, coarsely chopped
- Slivered almonds
- Shredded coconuts
Time ~ 30 min
- Toast walnuts in a dry skillet on medium-low heat (~ 3-5 min.) . Set aside.
- Melt a bit of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the dates and cook them for 5 minutes until softened, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool
- Slit open each date and stuff in a piece of walnut.
- Toast the sifted flour over medium heat ’til it turns golden brown. Add 4 Tbs (or 1/4 cup) butter to the flour, stirring constantly ’till it melts. Gradually add enough oil to make a smooth and creamy paste and sprinkle with cinnamon and cardamom. Stir to mix in.
- On a serving platter spread half of the flour, top with stuffed dates, press down. Spread the remaining flour over the dates.
- Sprinkle the fine sugar over and garnish with chopped pistachios, slivered almonds and shredded coconuts.
- Refrigerate for a couple of hours to let it set.
Persians like their sweets with a cup of warm black tea, be it Winter or Summer. I’d give you a pass if you rather have coffee.