Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for crispy chocolate and date slices

Granny Jean was my husband’s grandmother, and I hear she was a force. She had a winsome smile and an extraordinary energy for bric-a-brac sales, tennis and gardening. The only time you’d see her sitting still was at 4pm, where nothing would get between her and tea-time. The rules were simple: tea was served (in cups, not mugs) and Granny would insist all were seated to enjoy one of her latest creations. These homemade chewy date slices were a family favourite. Very simple to put together, but a whizzbanger of treat.

Granny Jean’s date slices
Medjool dates are nice, but they’re not the only dates of note. I like khudri dates, which are chewy, not oversweet and more reasonably priced. They can be found in abundance at the moment, post-Ramadan, in Asian shops.

Prep 5 min
Rest 2 hr
Cook 25 min
Makes 16

175g coconut oil
200g light brown soft sugar
200g dates, pitted and chopped
150g vegan puffed rice (check the packet, because the vitamin D in certain brands is made using sheep’s wool grease)
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
200g dark chocolate (70%), suitable for vegans, broken into pieces

Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper.

In a large saucepan over a low heat, melt together the coconut oil, sugar and chopped dates until the sugar dissolves. Mash the dates against the side of the pan until most of them have blended into the sugar, then take off the heat – don’t worry if the oil hasn’t combined – and stir in the vanilla bean paste and salt. Add the puffed rice, stir really well to combine, then tip out into the lined tin. Press down firmly to compact the mixture and put to one side.

Now melt the chocolate. I like to do this in 30-second bursts in the microwave, stirring after each one, until it’s mostly melted with just a few solid lumps remaining (these will melt in the residual heat), but you could do it in the traditional way by melting the chocolate pieces in a bowl over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. Once melted, stir the chocolate until it’s smooth, then pour over the puffed rice mixture and pop the tin in the fridge for at least two hours.

Once hardened, cut into four rows of four, to make 16 pieces. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.