Monday, 7 July 2014

Pomegranate molasses & date biscuits

I swore before we moved that I wouldn't get involved with the PTA. 

At least, not straight away.

"I've done my time on playgroup and school committees", I told myself. "I've baked cakes, I've made tea, I've driven myself half deaf and slightly crazy, listening to Crazy Frog, Nelly the Elephant and Jessie J, while mercilessly taking money from small children in return for glow sticks at any number of school discos. I've transformed (ahem) any number of the little angels into tigers, puppies, butterflies and pirates through the power of Snazaroo. I've done the admin, drunk the cheap coffee and shared in the frustrations of any group of volunteers struggling to do their best for the organisation they are supporting. Enough."

I went along to the first PTA meeting that was advertised after we moved.

A secret part of me would like to be cool, aloof, the kind of person everyone wants to have in their gang. The kind of person who doesn't leap in with both feet often to trip over in an ungainly fashion - metaphorically and, sadly, actually - in the varied social challenges life presents us with. But I'm just not. I'm a joiner. There's no point pretending to be anything other than what I am. Watch out for me in a few years, sensible shoes on, wielding secateurs or a wicker basket (possibly both) directing operations at a village fete near you. I've seen the future and, at its most cliched, it involves a ridiculous straw hat - depending on the weather of course. I've had a number of worrying urges in the direction of ridiculous straw hats recently. 

The thing about joining in is that it helps you meet people and make friends. I guess I was thinking I could take the 'sit back and let the friendships happen' approach but honestly, that's ridiculously arrogant, especially when I am hardly ever at school, and I work from home. I hasten to add that it's not an approach I've ever taken before, but it crossed my mind that I might avoid some of the ungainly tripping over if I did.  

The thing is, that if you join in, you meet people. They may not be always kindred spirits, but you can build a network, make connections with others, get out of the house. I knew that one of the hardest things about moving would be uprooting all of us from the community we lived in before - where at any given time if I went out I'd be bound to see someone I knew - in the shops, in the pub, out for a walk with the dog. My children had been to playgroup, then to the village primary school with the same group of kids, for 8 years. Same kids, same parents. That roots you in a place even more than I had appreciated. And it's not so easy to regrow those roots if you come into a community at a later stage. There's so much shared history you have with others if your kids have grown up together. Not necessarily because you are best friends with everyone, but because you've gone through that crazy baby and young child stage, seen the same changes in your community, seen teachers come and go, new buildings go up, shops close down. The children are comfortable with each other - they all know how the others tick, the ties that bind.

Coming away from that has been very hard. Through the power of Facebook I know what's going on in the village we used to live in at a very superficial level. The outdoor swimming pool that was at risk of closure has reopened for the summer, there's a new greengrocer on the high street, the Church fete took place at the weekend... but I'm not part of it any more. The other thing is that people also only have so much space for new friends. Yes, they can be welcoming, friendly, but time is precious to everyone, and investing time in new friendships is not necessarily near the top of people's agendas. I know this. It is a fact and I understand it from being in the position when we were part of the established community and new people moved in. Now, thought, the boot is on the other foot and we are the newcomers, the people who want to make friends and establish roots in a new community.

I could sink into a morass of self-pity and despair but frankly that's not going to get anyone anywhere is it, now, so Friday after school, I rolled up my sleeves and spent 2 hours face painting at the school fete. It was intense, I tell you. But my fellow face painter was someone I hadn't met before, and we're meeting up for coffee. This makes me very happy.

I am also hoping that making some biscuits to take along with me to her house using dates and pomegranate molasses will not turn out to be another ungainly trip in my social life's little path. I have no idea what she likes and dislikes, but I decided that something like this avoids the obvious chocolate route, there's the option to joke about 'healthy' biscuits (there's dates in them - of COURSE they are healthy, go on, have another one...) and they have a sweet lemony-ness from the pomegranate molasses to them that is interesting (in a good way) yet not overpowering. I'm hoping they will taste delicious with coffee.

Pomegranate molasses & date biscuits

Makes 15-18 (depending on how big your walnuts are*).

50g soft light brown suger
50g pomegranate molasses
125g soft unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
175g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground all spice
175g dates, stoned and chopped
100g  poppy seeds/sesame seeds (optional)

Beat together the sugar, molasses and butter till creamy, then add in the egg yolk and continue to beat till fluffy.

Sift in the flour, bicarb, baking powder and ground spices, and carefully fold everything together.

Beat in the dates till everything is combined

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and pop in the fridge for the mixture to firm up - leave for at least 30 minutes, but up to a week if necessary.

When ready to bake, line a couple of baking trays with greasproof paper and pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Sprinkle the seeds on a plate, then take walnut sized* balls of the mixture (I used a tablespoon measure to scoop out mixture, ice cream style and got about 16 biscuits) and flatten them into the seeds to about 1 cm thickness/4-5cm diameter. Cover both sides with seeds then place on the lined baking tray.

(I only used half the amount of seeds and didn't cover all of the biscuits, just in case poppy seeds weren't to my hostess's liking...)

Bake for 15-20 mins till the edges are firm and any biscuit you can see (as opposed to the seeds, especially if you use poppy seeds) are golden brown. 


  1. good for you - i love your glimpse into the future, you in your straw hat at the village fete - who could ask for more?? the biscuits sound delicious :))

  2. I am so glad to know I'm not the only one in this position, it's really hard! I can't commit to getting involved with things in the village or at the school because of having Eli with me and my husband never being around due to work...which makes building friendships ten times harder but I know I must persist and keep trying! p.s. I think the straw hat might be making a comeback ;)

    1. :-) yes it's harder with a little one - I've just been more 'relaxed' about work which has obvious financial consequences, but am feeling the need to settle. I'm sure it will come for you, too - if I see a good hat, I'll let you know!

  3. Reading this post has made me very happy, partly because I love dates and biscuits and, most of all, pomegranate molasses but also because I've a tendency to wear ridiculous hats. Personally I see only joy in a future of ridiculous hats and biscuits. (Nobody else I know seems to agree with me, sadly).

    1. Thanks Phil - yes, having been so scathing about pomegranate molasses, it's showing it's obvious potential - I was blind, but now I see... I've always liked your hat - perhaps that's what's prompted my own yearnings in that direction?!

  4. I think 'depending how big your walnuts are' might be my favourite line I've ever read in a recipe!

  5. I made $20 for a 20 minute survey!

    Guess what? This is exactly what big companies are paying me for. They need to know what their customer needs and wants. So these companies pay $1,000,000's of dollars per month to the average person. In return, the average person, like myself, fills out surveys and gives them their opinion.


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