Baklava is full of memories for me. When my sister and I were in primary school we would meet up with Dad for afternoon tea at a little cafe in Paddington and we would each get one little piece of baklava to ourselves. Our parents were divorced and we didn’t get to see Dad very often, so these afternoon cafe visits were precious time. Baklava has remained a favourite of mine and my sisters, and it sometimes makes me wonder about the power of memories and the connections that our brains make to food and smells when we are young. It’s my sister’s birthday soon but she will be gallivanting overseas on the actual day, so I made this for her early in lieu of a birthday cake. She’s not really a cake or a chocolate person so I thought that this would be the perfect occasion to try out baklava for the first time.
This recipe comes from one of my favourite shows, SBS Food Safari. I own all of the series except for the most recent and I watch them a lot. The TV is almost in full view from the kitchen so I always have cooking shows playing when I’m cooking. I never get sick of them. Unfortunately my sister and boyfriend do. It has got to the point where they know the shows almost as well as I do and remember the recipes in certain episodes. Food Safari in particular is a great introduction to lesser known or (seemingly) intimidating cuisines. Knowing that the recipes come from authentic sources and seeing the cooking process has made me far more confident in trying new cuisines. It’s hosted by Maeve O’Meara who I still remember from her Better Homes and Gardens days as the resident cook. She is charming and passionate and I always say to whoever is in the room with me at the time “How do I get her job?!“. She eats, travels and talks with people who are proud of their food and culture, I just can’t think of a better career. The show is also a great source of information about local restaurants and businesses that specialise in particular cuisines. My only issue is that hardly any of them are in Brisbane! There has only been one restaurant mentioned so far that has been situated in my home city and I am extremely envious of anyone who lives in Sydney and Melbourne, where most of the mentioned restaurants are.
Sorry for the rant, back to baklava. I don’t buy it very often, unless I happen to be at a Turkish or Greek restaurant that sells some that is made in store. I have certain expectations that need to be met (I’m not picky, I swear!). Syrup sodden base, crispy top and a filling that is mainly made of pistachios. I added cinnamon to my recipe because I remember a hint of it in the filling from when I was younger but leave it out if it isn’t to your personal taste. I added a pinch of salt because I just can’t make anything sweet anymore without throwing in a touch of salt. Anyone else on the salty/sweet bandwagon? I don’t think I’m ever getting off.
For some reason my nut filling got really brown before the filo pastry did, so it tasted a bit more toasty than I like my baklava and the lovely green of the pistachios was lost. Next time I make this I think I will either reduce the temperature or the cooking time. You may also need to cut your filo to fit your baking tray as the pieces are quite large. I was able to find refrigerated filo which I find easier to handle than frozen but it can dry out and get crumbly, so it helps to keep it covered with a tea towel during the buttering and layering process. Overall, this recipe is slightly time consuming (not to be confused with difficult) and I can only recommend giving it a try.
2 cups pistachios
1 cup walnuts
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp orange blossom water
1 tsp rosewater
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
200g clarified butter, melted
1 packet filo pastry
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
200 ml water
1 squeeze lemon juice
1/2 tsp rosewater
1/2 tsp orange blossom water
Lightly crush the pistachios and walnuts in a food processor, tip into a bowl and mix with sugar, orange blossom water, rosewater, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Brush a 20 X 30 cm baking tray with butter, add a layer of filo and brush with more butter. Repeat until half of the filo is used.
Spread the nuts over the buttered filo in an even layer.
Continue to layer and butter filo pastry until the second half of the filo is used up.
Carefully cut the baklava into squares or diamonds (I suck at making diamonds even so I went with squares) and pour over a bit of the remaining butter.
Bake for 55 mins.
Prepare the syrup while the baklava bakes.
Combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan.
Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 15 mins.
Remove from the heat and add rosewater and orange blossom water.
Pour the hot syrup over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Allow the baklava to cool to room temperature then refrigerate.