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Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the shallot and a generous pinch of salt and cook for 2-3 mins until softened, then add the garlic, breadcrumbs, pecans and thyme and cook for 1 min more. Add a splash of vegetable stock to bring the mixture together, then set aside.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Cut the dates in half lengthways (but don’t cut all the way through). Take small balls of the stuffing and push inside the dates, then push the sides of the dates back together. Put a sage leaf on top of each date, then put the dates on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Get ahead by prepping your dates up to this point – they will keep in the fridge overnight ready to be baked.
Brush the outside of the dates liberally with olive oil, then bake for 15-20 mins until the sage leaf is crisp. Serve immediately.