Every year, at the end of Muslim Ramadan, our villagers’ families visit to feast and overindulge in sweets. One delicacy is baklava, a sweet made from layers of filo pastry with walnuts and organic honey. Divine! Luckily for me, this year one neighbour was visitor free so offered to show me how to make it. It’s a technique that I need to practice a lot to improve my speed but here’s the recipe for anyone else who would like to try:
100g butter, melted
500g all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp oil
1 tsp vinegar
8-16 tbsp warm milk
400g crushed walnuts
1 kg water
2 tbsp honey
Melt 50g of butter and add to the flour with an egg. Mix roughly with your hand and, one at a time, add the sugar, 2 tbsp oil and vinegar. Combine together and gradually add milk until the consistency is smooth. Form into 20 balls, each the same size, about 5cm, and keep these covered.
Dust a board with cornflour and one by one, roll each ball out really thin, roughly about 50cm wide. For this you need a long thin rolling pin, maximum 3cm diameter. I’ve never seen one in England but then I never looked for one. A broom handle is a good comparison! As you roll, start with you hands in the middle of the pin and with each forward and backward movement, move your hands outwards. Keep dusting the board and pin with cornflour and as you thin it out don’t be alarmed if splits occur. The thinner it gets, the better and splits will not be noticed. When you reach the end of the dough, turn it 180° and roll from the centre out again. When you reach about 30cm diameter, roll the pastry back on itself. Hands return together in a backward/forward movement as you roll the pastry over itself, and outwards again as you roll the pastry flat once more. It shouldn’t stick together if you have used enough cornflour. Place each sheet on a flat surface and overlap edges so 2 piles stack up. Repeat until all balls are rolled out.
Oil a baking tray as big as you can (mine was 42 cm x 32 cm and 4 cm deep). Place 1st sheet of pastry on the bottom and cut any overlaps and reposition to fill the base or add from the next sheet. No need to try and stick them together. Sprinkle with nuts and place the next sheet on top, cutting and filling gaps as necessary so the layers are even. Repeat until all pastry is used. Using a sharp knife, deeply cut into 3cm wide strips then turn 180° and cut strips again to make squares. Brush the rest of the oil into all gaps and repeat with the rest of the melted butter. Top with any remaining nuts and bake at 180°C for 30-50 minutes until the pastry has risen and is brown. Remove from oven, cover and cool in tin.
Dissolve 1kg sugar in 1 kg water, add honey and pour over pastry. Don’t be alarmed if the pastry is swimming – the pastry soaks up a lot of the liquid. Cover and wait (if you can) for it to cool.
Give a portions to your neighbours, refrigerate and eat for up to 10 days. Be warned, it’s very sticky and messy! Alternatively you can come for a holiday at Melanya to use our local organic ingredients and the latest walnut harvest.