We don't really do dessert in the Middle East. We do tea... tea and baklava. The origins of baklava are not well documented and many countries have their own versions of this syrup-soaked treat. Greeks like using walnut in theirs, Arabs use cashews and other nuts, Turks predominantly use pistachios and hazelnuts and persians use almonds and pistachios. Some add spices and some don't. In my version, I like to add a little zesty citrus kick to cut through the sweetness. We always serve baklava with black tea.
Sabrina Ghayour's Baklava
Serves: 8 - 10
300g ground almonds
100g pistachio nut slivers or blanched pistachio nuts
100g caster sugar
finely grated rind of 2 oranges
finely grated rind of 1 lime
seeds from 6 green cardamom pods, ground with a pestle and mortar
pinch of ground cinnamon
150g unsalted butter, melted
2 packets of filo pastry (12 sheets)
For the syrup
1 tbsp lemon juice
300g caster sugar
1 Combine the ground almonds, pistachios, caster suger and orange and lime rind in a mixing bowl with ground cardamom seeds and cinnamon. Set aside.
2 Preheat the oven to 180°C/ fan 160°C/ gas mark 4.
3 Select a 25-30cm square ovanproof dish and brush the basr well with melted butter. Line the base of the dish with 6 sheets of filo pastry. Ensure there is enough of the sheets overhanging the edges of the dish to allow you to fold them over the contents of the dish later, when it comes to sealing the baklava. Brush the exposed base of the pastry generously with melted butter, then add the nut mixture into the base and flatten it gently to lightly compress the mixture. Use 5 of the remaining 6 sheets of filo pastry to top the nut mixture as evenly and neatly as possible, then tuck in the loose flaps from the bottom layers. Add the final sheet of pastry on top to seal the baklava. brush the top layer generously with more melted butter.
4 Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut diagonal lines (or squares, as in the photograph) across the top layers of pastry. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.
5 Meanwhile, make the syrup. Put the water and lemon juice into a saucepanset over a low-medium heat and dissolve the sugar in the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the liquid begins to thicken to a syrup consistency. This should take 20-25 minutes.
6 Remove the baklava from the oven and immediately drizzle the syrup over the pastry. Allow it to seep into all the cuts that you made before baking. Allow to cool completly in the tin before cutting.