30 Jan

On Saturday we have been invited to some friends on Vera Beach to celebrate Australia Day which was on Wednesday.  I was in Australia for the bicentennial in 1988 – and 26th January is always a public holiday there.  Graham, who is from Australia, and David used to own a restaurant in Sydney called the Yellow Book which I visited in the 80’s and just by chance we met them here again all these years later when they had their fantastic restaurant Cortijo Listonera up in Sierra Cabrera.  They are now enjoying some seriously deserved leisure time and are fantastic hosts and chefs.  I like to take a little something if I go to anyone’s house and so am making Baklava for them – for those of you who haven’t had it before, it is a very very sweet pastry but divine to have with an espresso or even a glass of dessert wine.  It is associated with many different cultures, each adding some spice or other, but I suppose now mostly with Greece or Turkey.   Our gorgeous friends James and Vera, bring us platters of sweets, all different, very similar to this when they visit us.  Vera is originally from Armenia and is a mean cook so it is really thanks to her that I am happy making this.


So do have a go if you feel like baking something different – I promise that it is much easier and less fiddly than it looks and certainly easier than making a Victoria sponge.


Anyhow, what you will need is:


200 g of nuts – I used a mixture of walnuts, almonds and pistachios.  You can’t always find unsalted, unshelled pistachios here, and if that is the case I just get the salted kind and shell them myself.  It doesn’t take long to shell a couple of small handfuls and the small amount of salt of course just enhances the taste!  You can just use one type of nut if that is all you have in the cupboard, it will still be delicious.


100g golden sugar

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon orange blossom water (this always makes me laugh as it is about the only thing I use this for so lasts for about 2 years!)

1 tablespoon of rose water

A piece of unsalted butter to grease a square baking dish (I find a cake tin type dish is the best as you will be using filo pastry)

12 sheets filo

75 g unsalted butter, melted


Sugar syrup (recipe below)


Pre-heat the oven (but after you have shelled the nuts!!!) to 200c

Grind the nuts in a food processor until they are in crumb form but not uniform or fine.

Put in a mixing bowl with the sugar, cinnamon, and rose and orange water and mix together well.


Grease your cake tin (it needs to be at least an inch deep and around 15-18cms square or oblong) I use a square spring form cake tin as it is then very easy to transfer to a pretty plate in one piece if you use a fish slice and are careful), but this is not essential.

Put one of the sheets of filo to cover the bottom and brush with melted butter – and repeat this with a further five sheets, brushing each layer with butter (yes I know but you don’t have to eat the whole thing!).  Be careful with the filo though, it really dries out so each time you take a layer; cover the rest with a damp tea towel to keep it nice and malleable so it doesn’t break.


Spread the mixture over this base and gently press down into the corners and then repeat layering up with filo brushed with butter with a further 6 layers.


Cut into diamonds in a criss cross pattern and put in the oven for around 20 minutes.

Remove when golden and leave for a couple of minutes.  Then pour over the cooled sugar syrup which you can make while baking.


175g white granulated sugar

75 ml water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon each of rose and orange blossom water



Place the water, sugar and lemon juice in a small pan, gently heat and stir from time to time.  Bring to the boil for a couple of minutes. Ad the rose and orange blossom water and boil for a couple of seconds.  Remove and cool.  Pour over the Baklava when completely cool.  When you transfer onto a plate, just cut through the diamond shapes and serve in small pieces.


It may look like a bit of a faff – it really isn’t and is quite special – serve with coffee after dinner or just for elevenses.


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