I have been itching to make baklava for ages. I had an idea for a variation and then realised I couldn’t modify something I have never made before…..oops. The Greek thyme honey that my flatmate bought as a gift has been sitting patiently on the shelf since making this salad; a twinkling little opportunity to make a good, authentic baklava. I can’t resist that super sweet, buttery, flaky, nuttiness melting on the tongue.
I also spotted them on the menu at a Turkish restaurant a few days ago; no further encouragement needed from that point forward. The Turkish restaurant was one of many on a street in Manor House, North London; more of what you might call a ‘kebab shop’ but the food was authentic, fresh and tasty. We chose the ‘Iskender’, diced bread, topped with yoghurt, topped with spiced lamb and a very rich tomato sauce, served with salad and tzatziki. It was delicious, although very rich and we couldn’t eat it all. It was amazing to watch the chefs work and I wasn’t much company as I sat there fascinated by their speed, skill and obvious passion. A constant buzz of activity produced enormous piles of salad, sizzling skewers and steaming flatbreads, all made to the sounds of happy voices and deep belly laughter.
I adapted this baklava recipe from one that I found here. I found the original called for a little too much butter or my taste (but only a little!) and the pistachios were a welcome addition. It is the amount of nuts that make this recipe special, although again, I have modified the amounts to suit my taste. I also use less pastry than some might be used to as I really like those nuts to take centre stage. The flavour of the thyme honey was so delicious and pronounced that I cannot imagine making baklava again without it. I must Google for a Greek deli nearby!
1 standard jar of Greek honey, missing a couple of tablespoons
¼ pint water
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch lemon zest (very finely chopped)
1 pinch orange zest (very finely chopped)
½ tbsp lemon juice
200g walnuts, coarsely ground
100g almonds, coarsely ground
75g pistachios, coarsely ground
2 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
6oz unsalted butter, melted
400g filo pastry
Cloves, for studding
20cm cake tin (I used spring form and this worked well).
Preheat your oven to 200°C
-In a saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the honey and water, stirring until you have a syrup.
-Add the lemon juice, the zests and the cinnamon stick and cook over a medium heat until the syrup begins to thicken slightly.
-Remove the cinnamon stick and allow the syrup to cool while you assemble the baklava.
-In a bowl, combine the nuts, remaining spices and 3tbsp of the melted butter.
-Add a good layer of filo to the bottom of the pan, brushing each with melted butter before adding the next (I found around 10 sheets did it). Allow some of the sheets to drape over the edge of the tin as you will fold these over at the next stage.
-Put around 1/3 of the nuts in, put another layer of filo on, again brushing with butter as if your life depended on it.
-Repeat this until you have 3 layers, and have covered the top with filo. Then pour the remaining butter over (yes, all of it) and score into diamonds with a sharp knife.
-Stud each diamond with a clove and bake for around 30-40 minutes until golden brown and smelling divine.
-Allow the baklava to cool for 10 minutes before spooning over the syrup and leaving to rest, preferably overnight but at least a few hours (no, I couldn’t wait either – I tucked in after a mere hour, but trust me, it really is better if you wait).