Finally back to some edumacatin’ this week! I actually feel better already and it’s only Tuesday. Just goes to show that we all need routine and structure.
We are staring down the end of our focus on ancient Egypt which means activity time! Today we made what might just be the human race’s first candy. The boys were both excited to do this project, but I had my doubts whether they would actually try the treats. EJ is extremely cautious of new foods, and although JD is more adventurous he sometimes takes his brother’s lead and will refuse (or try) something just because big brother did.
The recipe for Tiger Nut Sweets also known as Tiger Balls, is believed to be the oldest Egyptian recipe ever found. In general ancient recipes were not written down, they would have been common knowledge and not important enough to write by the scribes of the day. For recipes that might have been written down, only those in the early Egyptian era, written on clay or pottery would have survived.
There seem to be variations on the recipe and I imagine even in ancient days these date treats could have been made more savory or sweet depending on what spices were used. We followed the recipe in Creative Fun Egyptian Activity Book.
Egyptians didn’t grow cane sugar but as early bee keepers they did have honey to use as sweetener. The recipe uses just a few ingredients and is easy enough for a child of any age to help, or for an older child to complete on their own.
- Chopped Pitted dates, about 7 oz.
- A bit of water
- 4 oz. walnut pieces
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional alternatives: cumin, cardamom)
- Ground almonds for coating.
If you happen to have a mortar and pestle in the house give it a try for this recipe; it’s certainly more traditional than the food processor we used. After-all, this is a learning project, not just a yummy treat.
Chop the walnuts in the processor, add the pitted and chopped dates and blend until they form a stiff paste. Add the honey and cinnamon and mix. At this point we found our food processor (it’s just a small one) to be unable to handle the stiff mixture. You could add a bit of water but it seemed to be the right texture so I had the boys finish mixing it in a bowl with the back of a spoon. Once you have a nice paste, form the mixture into small balls and roll in the ground almonds. Voila! Easy, natural, healthy, candy!
To up the learning with this project we decided to traipse through the neighborhood with our sweets and make a survey of opinions on the candy. The intention was to graph the results, but they were uniformly even. 10 people surveyed, 10 huge thumbs up. EJ asked each guinea pig (oops, I mean tester) to describe the sweet in one word. We got sweet, honey, nutty, tasty, crunchy, gooey, cinnamony, and scrumptious.
JD loved them and even I think they are very tasty although I’m not a big fan of honey. I was not surprised that EJ had no interest in tasting them himself. Eventually though after so many obviously positive reactions he ate one, and then another, and then another! Seriously, this result alone was worth the effort of traipsing up and down our street twice today knocking on doors. I’m so proud that he left his comfort zone to try something so foreign. I didn’t expect it, but I think this will be a recipe we actually repeat. Both boys are already clamoring to make it again!