Baklava (Sent Direct from Heaven)

These traditional delicacies are the perfect homemade recipe to end a meal. Baklava is layered up with filo pastry, a pistachio filling and lemony syrup coating.

Stuffed Vine Leaves Saved My Life
By Nadia Sawalha
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Introduction

I must warn you that these delightful delicacies are an extremely expensive indulgence that should probably be allowed out only once a year. Feel free to experiment a bit with the flower waters: I know that some (strange) people aren’t keen on their perfume, whilst others can’t get enough.

Makes 20-25 pastries

Ingredients

For the filling:
350g (12oz) shelled pistachio nuts, finely chopped
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp rosewater
1 tsp ground cardamom (my nephew Zak has insisted on ‘optional’, as he hates cardamom)
For the syrup:
300ml (½ pint) water
450g (1lb) granulated sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp each rosewater and orange-flower water
For the pastry:
450g (1lb) packet fresh filo pastry
250g (9oz) unsalted butter, melted

Essential kit

You will need a 30 x 28cm (12 x 11in) baking tray.

Instructions

Mix the filling ingredients together in a bowl, cover, and set aside. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4, and butter a 30 x 28cm (12 x 11in) baking tray.

Next, make the syrup to allow time for it to cool. Bring the water, sugar and lemon juice to the boil in a medium saucepan. Do not stir, but keep it at a bubble for about 4—5 minutes. Add the heady flower waters and set to one side to cool until those naughty pastries are ready to be bathed in it.

Unwrap the pastry and keep it under a damp towel. This is really important, because it’s incredible how quickly the pastry can dry out. Lay one sheet in the tray and brush it with butter (though if I’m honest I spread it with my hands, as it’s less likely to tear). Repeat this until you’ve used half the packet and don’t press down on the pastry so that it can puff up a bit. Time to scatter the twinkling sugared pistachio mixture all over the pastry. Repeat the buttering and layering of the remaining pastry until all used up.

With a sharp knife, cut a diamond pattern all the way through, though I usually just cut it into squares. Bake for 20 minutes, then increase the temperature to 220°C/gas mark 7 and cook for 10-15 minutes until puffed and golden.

Pour the syrup on slowly, as you may find you don’t need it all. Baklava is supposed to be eaten cold but Zak and I have never been able to wait that long!

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