I made these sweet, nutty, squares of naughtiness to take with me to my closest friend Eleanor’s house, for the weekend. I haven’t seen her properly in nearly a year and hadn’t been to stay for over two. I really do need to visit more often, but I’ve always thought a sign of a good friendship is one you can pick up where you left off, even if it’s been ages.
Good friends are like stars; you don’t always see them but you know they’re always there
We had a lovely weekend. A wet, windy walk one day and a sunny, windy walk the next, delicious food and lots to catch up on. Perfect. We’ll just have to make sure we don’t leave it so long till next time.
I have been wanting to make baklava for ages and went for this recipe as the hint of orange sounded interesting. It was really tasty, but I think I overdid the orange blossom water in the syrup. The recipe said to be careful and add it bit by bit, which I did, but probably added a teeny tiny bit too much, so just use with caution. The flavour mellowed over a few days, but it is strong stuff so you don’t need loads.
(Makes 1 tray)
- 250g butter
- 300g walnut pieces
- 125g ground almonds
- 75g pistachio kernels, slivered (I just sliced them myself – that’s dedication for you!)
- Zest of 1 orange
- Generous pinch of salt (optional)
- 1tsp ground cardamom
- 12 sheets of filo pastry (2 x 270g packets)
- 250g granulated or caster sugar
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp orange-blossom water (or to taste) – I used about ¾ tbsp of Nielsen Massey orange blossom water
Melt the butter. Coarsely grind or chop the walnuts so you have a chunky rubble, then stir in the ground almonds and slivered pistachios, followed by the zest, salt (if using), cardamom and 5tbsp of melted butter. Mix well.
Heat the oven to 160C/315F/gas mark 2.5. Find a tin about 30x25cm and brush well with melted butter. Lay the filo out on a clear work surface near the tin, with the melted butter-and-nut mixture within easy reach. Line the tin with one sheet of filo and brush with melted butter. Continue in this way with five more sheets of filo.
Spoon the nut mixture over the top evenly, but without pressing it down too firmly. Top with the rest of the filo, again brushing each sheet with butter before adding the next, and being particularly generous with the top.
Use a sharp knife to cut through the layers in parallel lines to make diamond shapes. Bake for an hour.
Meanwhile, put the sugar and lemon juice in a pan with 125ml of water. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for about 10 minutes, until syrupy. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly, then stir in the orange-blossom water to taste (brands vary greatly in strength, so add a little at a time). Set aside.
When the baklava is golden, remove from the oven and turn up the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark four. Once it has come to temperature, pour the syrup over the top, especially along the lines, and put back in the oven for five minutes. Remove and leave to cool completely, when it should have absorbed all the syrup. Run a knife along the lines to loosen them before attempting to lever the pieces out of the tin.
Did you know?
- Baklava is claimed by both the Turks and the Greeks as their own
- In Turkey, baklava is normally lighter and crispier than its’ Greek counterpart as it’s sweetened with sugar water rather than honey
- Pistachios aren’t actually nuts! They’re actually seeds from a fruit tree originating in Central Asia and the Middle East. They’re called nuts because they look like them and are from the cashew family. They’re also related to mangoes! Who knew!
- Pistachio is known as the “smiling nut” in Iran and the “happy nut” in China
- Apparently the Queen of Sheba decreed pistachios an exclusively royal food, forbidding commoners from growing the nut for personal use. Maybe that’s why they’re so expensive!