Azeri Style Pahklava

From Eastern Europe to Central Asia, Baklava appears in many shapes and forms. These revered honey or syrup infused pastries are sometimes spiced, other times not but always deliciously nutty. Balkanites, Greeks, Turks, North Africans, Persians and Arabs each lay claim to their own particular style. Labour intensive and indulgent, Balkava is usually reserved for occasions such as weddings, births, religious festivals and homecomings. Homemade baklava dwells in the hearts of many homesick migrants.

My version was inspired by pastries gifted by a friend from Baku, Azerbaijan, after the birth of my second son. Its a cheeky cheat recipe using shop bought pastry; in a transient city like London where continental food shops exist in most neighbourhoods, suitable ready doughs from Turkey, Bosnia, Bulgaria and the Arab world are widely available – horray!

Makes approx. 45 pieces

Filling;

3 cups crushed nuts (walnuts, blanched almonds or pistachios)

Three quarters of a cup of caster sugar

1 and a half tsp ground cardamom

Pastry:

1 packet filo type pastry

4 tbsp melted clarified butter

1 egg yolk

Quarter tsp ground tumeric (for colour rather than flavour)

1 tbsp light olive oil

Syrup:

Three quarters of a cup of caster sugar

Half a cup of water

3 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp lemon juice

To decorate: Blanched almonds/ walnuts or pistachio kernels.

Preheat oven at 190 degrees C.

Mix nuts, sugar and cardamom in a bowl and set aside.
Using a pastry brush, grease baking tin with melted butter. Layer 8 sheets of dough on top of each other, brushing each with butter.

Scatter on a third of the spiced nut mixture evenly. Cover with two layers of pastry (always brushing each layer with butter in between), then scatter half of remaining nuts.

Repeat with another two layers of pastry brushed with butter, then scatter remaining nuts on top. Cover with remaining pastry sheets, brushing each with butter.

With a small sharp knife, cut pastry in strips lengthways about 5cm apart. Use your fingers from your free hand to lightly press down surroundings as you go along.

Then cut strips on the diagonal, evenly spaced, to form diamond shaped baklava.

Mix egg yolk, olive oil, tumeric and remaining butter together then brush on top, pressing a nut onto each diamond shape for decoration.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile heat sugar and water together until dissolved, add honey and simmer for a further 3 minutes, turn off heat then add lemon juice.

Remove tray from the oven and recut shapes with knife. Pour syrup over as evenly as possible and return to oven for a further 10 minutes.

Remove from oven, recut shapes and set aside to cool completely before serving.

Best eaten the day after accompanied by a strong, black tea.

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