I had Sunday all planned out. There were a few chores but mostly it was about relaxation. And then the tell-tale pool of liquid on my kitchen floor told me it wasn’t going to be that way.
My fridge freezer is 9 years old and I can’t begrudge its retirement but I find myself working out how to gainfully cook the defrosted contents on this day of rest. The temperate evacuees sit on my work surface begging my attention and creativity like a horribly misjudged ready-steady-cook bag. In the salvageable category there is sweet pastry, filo pastry, puff pastry, meatballs, chicken and cheese. Less fortunate (and less identifiable) comestibles are mercifully relegated to the bin.
Filo? I didn’t even realise I had filo pastry. For the uninitiated filo is the devils work to make and that’s why it’s perfectly respectable, indeed expected, to buy ready made sheets from the supermarket. A trawl through my recipe books found plenty of recipes but all requiring ingredients I didn’t have. Then, en-route to the bin, I noticed a recipe for hazelnut baklava on the side of the pastry box – and here it is…
200g filo pastry
200g caster sugar
1) Roughly chop the hazlenuts and mix in two teaspoons of ground cinnamon and four of sugar.
2) Melt the butter. I used a ramekin in the microwave.
3) Brush some butter onto the base of a baking dish. Then unroll a sheet of filo (it’s paper thin so be careful) and lay it in the bottom of the dish. Brush the sheet with butter.
4) Add another 6 or 7 sheets, placing each on top of the last and buttering each one. Then spread half of the nut mixture evenly over the top layer.
5) Place another 3 buttered sheets over the nuts, then sprinkle the rest of the nuts into a second later. Add the remaining sheets one by one buttering as you go. If you are me (stupid) now use a knife to trim the pastry over spill from the sides of the dish. Alternatively you could trim the sheets to dish size prior to placing them. Doh!
6) Now carefully use a sharp knife to slice this pale Greek odyssey into bite sized portions – you will find it hard once cooked. Diagonals are more traditional but square is lazier and quicker. Sprinkle the surface with water to minimise the risk of burning and place in the oven at 190 degrees for around 30 minutes.
7) While the dish is in the oven make a syrup. Put the sugar, 200ml of water, a cinnamon stick and 3 teaspoons of lemon juice in a pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add a three or four heaped teaspoons of honey and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
8) When the baklava is baked and golden remove it from the oven and after 10 minutes of cooling pour the syrup over.
9) When it’s cool eat a slice, forget it’s January and dream of warmer Aegean climes.
The result is an authentic tasting sticky Greek treat – very scoffable without ever quite meeting the heights of the Greek Easter Cake I wrote about a while ago. I would add a little rose water next time and perhaps throw some cloves & cardamom pods into the syrup. Next time? I’ll throw some more filo into my new freezer when it arrives and hope it’s less reliable than the last one.