Sweet sweet Friday: Walnut Surprises

My niece says you should never pass up a social engagement because you never know what you might get out of it. Last year, bearing this in mind, my sister and I reluctantly allowed the Boy Wonder to drag us to a party. Let me be clear: this was a party with a small ‘p’. There was a rugby game on the TV, around which most of the action was gathered, and a strong gender split in the manner of ‘ladies, a plate’. The men of the group gathered around the television, shouting encouragement, while the women sat at a table and talked about people they knew and how much their husbands earned.
I didn’t know any of them, except the hostess, and my sister, who had arrived the day before from Taiwan, was immediately persona non grata to this coven. They were suspicious because she revealed she had spent a few years living in this particular town, and I could see their brains working furiously to work out her age and how it was she was “from Taiwan” yet didn’t look Chinese. My sister, who is charm itself, bravely smiled through the whole ordeal, including being chatted up by the host (at which point the hostess couldn’t get us out the door fast enough).
Anyway, the highlight for me, apart from laughing our heads off all the way home, was the plate of chewy, sticky date balls that someone had brought as their ‘plate’ for the evening. It’s taken me a while to track down the recipe, but it proves my niece was right (even though my sister will never go to a party with me again).

Walnut Surprises
I’ve searched high and low for this recipe, finally finding something like it in an ancient Annabel Langbein. The original is very, very sweet – including the nuts makes it a little more sophisticated. If you don’t like walnuts, try pieces of crystallised ginger instead.

150g butter
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
250g dates, finely chopped
1tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 egg, beaten
3 cups rice bubbles
about 24 walnut halves
Coconut, sesame seeds or chopped walnuts, to roll the balls in.

Put the butter, sugar, dates, vanilla, salt and ginger in a large pot and bring to the boil. Let simmer for three minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and let cool for a minute or two, then add the rice bubbles and the beaten egg. Stir well. As soon as it’s cool enough to touch (wear gloves, if you’re very sensitive), take small amounts of the mixture and shape into balls around a walnut half. Roll in coconut, sesame seeds or chopped walnuts, then put in the fridge to set. Makes 24.

Are you a party person? What’s the worst one you’ve ever been to? Have a sweet, sweet weekend everyone, whether there is a party involved or not x



  1. November 3, 2011 / 6:11 pm

    wow, there's a whole lot of balls banging around on the internet today… what with your delicious looking date balls and my cinnamon balls… anyone would think we were ball obsessed!… can I say balls any more..? Balls…

  2. November 3, 2011 / 6:27 pm

    Hahaha – that's a fun story. At least something good came out of it in the end. And I'm with Dom, defo a lot of balls kicking about at the moment ;0)

  3. November 3, 2011 / 9:21 pm

    oh don't you just love those bitchy ladies who you can wind up? Ha ha! We are eating more walnuts as I read they lower your cholesterol (also I really like them lol!) so what a good excuse to make these little sweeties.

  4. November 3, 2011 / 9:22 pm

    oh meant to ask…what are rice bubbles? Are they like rice crispies?

  5. November 4, 2011 / 9:19 pm

    How serendipitous (is that a word?) I have just been given a whole carrier bag of walnuts from a friends tree. I shall make balls then. No parties for me. I have been to too many bad ones (including ones given by me). The gin party given by a friend of a friend was pretty bad. The gin punch was grey. So was the food. I'm going to the ballet instead. To see The Nutcracker. No, really I am.

  6. November 7, 2011 / 11:27 am

    These look great, I find balls very appealing… ooh that sounds weird now doesn't it!!!

  7. November 25, 2011 / 1:41 pm

    I'm loving these little things. Definitely on the list for baking with the kids over the weekend!

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