I live in a culturally rich part of London where the streets are essentially a tapestry of Turkish and Greek restaurants and bakeries. The Baklava’s are usually quite deliberately perched in long trays and pans in these shop windows, which also happen to be located behind a bus stop of some kind, leaving me drooling…for the 29 bus. Most of us are familiar with this very sweet delicacy, and only the brave or those with dentures can manage more than one maybe two squares. There is no healthy alternative to this, you can’t skip or substitute any ingredients it is what it is: yummy! Now off for my 5k run.
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
250g almonds (with skins on), chopped
150g shelled pistachios, chopped
1 lemon, finely grated zest
6 tbsp granulated sugar
16 sheets Filo Pastry
75g unsalted butter, melted
450g granulated sugar
Pinch of sea salt flakes
1 lemon, juice and 3 strips zest,
1 cinnamon stick
1tsp almond essence
1 tsp minced ginger (optional)
Whole cloves (decoration)
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Put the spices, in a pan and roast over a high heat until you start to smell the aromas. Allow to cool then with a mortar and pestle finely grind. Finely chop all nuts in a bowl and add the ground spice mixture with the lemon zest and 6 tbsp granulated sugar.
Open out the filo pastry, and cover with a damp tea-towel to prevent it from drying out. Brush a rectangular baking tray with vegetable oil. Brush a sheet of filo with butter and place in the baking tray. Repeat to make 8 layers. Trim to make sure it fits snuggly.
Add the nut mixture and spread evenly. Brush remaining pastry with butter and layer until all the pastry is used. Trim the top to a snug fit. Press down gently with the palm of your hand. Lightly score the pastry top but do not cut all the way through into the nuts. Criss-cross in diagonal lines to give a diamond pattern. Pin the whole cloves through the centre of each of the diamonds at this stage if you wish. Brush top with butter and bake for 25-30 minutes.
In the meantime make the syrup. Put the sugar in a pan with 300ml water, a pinch of sea salt flakes, the lemon juice and strips of zest, ginger and the cinnamon. Heat gently until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil for 5-8 minutes until the syrup is light and slightly thickened. Add the almond essence to taste. Cool quickly by placing the pan in a bowl of ice.
Remove baklava from oven once golden brown. Cut the pastry all the way through. Straining the syrup, gently spoon the syrup over the baklava.
(Adding cold syrup to hot pastry keeps the pastry crisp.) Cool completely.