Substitute the rum with another spirit or liqueur if desired. Whisky, brandy, coffee and hazelnut all go well with dates. The date paste can be made several days in advance. Store covered in the fridge, adding the almonds to the paste when assembling the pastries.
200 grams pitted dried dates, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons caster sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons dark rum
70 grams sliced almonds, roasted and roughly chopped
½ cup water
½ cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons rum
12 sheets filo pastry
½ cup melted butter
150 grams firm ricotta
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
icing sugar for dusting
mascarpone for serving
Put all the paste ingredients, except the rum and almonds, in a medium saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring often, until it forms a thick paste. The dates should be very soft and all the liquid evaporated. Stir in the rum and almonds and cool.
Syrup: Put the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 1 minute then add the rum. Tip into a bowl and cool.
To assemble: Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
Lay one sheet of filo on the bench with the long end towards you. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Keep the remaining pastry covered with a damp tea towel to prevent it drying out. Brush another sheet of pastry with butter and lay it on top. Sprinkle with more sesame seeds. Repeat to make 4 layers. Cut the pastry into 3 strips.
Place a spoonful of date paste in the bottom left hand corner of each strip and top with a spoonful of ricotta. Brush the border with butter and fold up to make a triangle. Place on a lined baking tray, seam side down, brush with butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling.
Bake for 15–20 minutes until golden and crisp, turning the tray halfway through for even browning. Transfer to a cooling rack.
To serve: Dust with icing sugar and serve warm or at room temperature with mascarpone and rum syrup. Makes 9 strudels
Filo pastry: (also spelt phyllo) A type of paper thin pastry from the Eastern Mediterranean. It is used for sweet and savoury dishes and is readily available fresh from the supermarket. It is important to keep it covered while in use as it dries out quickly when exposed to the air.