Friday, 24 January 2014

Coconut and Pistachio Baklava

I have always loved baklava.  The sticky, flaky, honeyed pastry treat that so many different countries lay claim to, from the alabaster marble sheathed temples of Greece to the snow capped pointed domes of Armenia, has long been one of my favourites.
Steve and I were recently out for dinner at an Italian-Moroccan (it's a thing and a thing that works surprisingly well) restaurant in Canterbury and we ordered the platter of baklava for dessert; 6 minatures in total with three of each variety.  It came out with your usual orange flower and rose flavours, and then we both picked up one, popped it in our mouths and simultaneously closed our eyes and groaned with pleasure.  It was a coconut baklava, a flavour I have never had before in this context and it worked incredibly well.
I have been attempting to recreate it at home and, while not quite the same yet, this is not too far off.  As you can prepare it 24 hours in advance it is the ideal dinner party dessert.  Serve it languidly, reclining on deep cushions with incense scented air and mint tea if you want to go truly authentic but whatever you do, don't supply napkins.  This will encourage the inevitable finger licking caused by this saccharine bite sized pastry.
Interestingly, the traditional ingredients of honey and pistachio were considered by the Turkish Sultans to be aphrodisiacs and the spices, cardamon for men, cinnamon for women and cloves for both, were supposed to balance and bring harmony.
Regardless of any truth behind this belief, this dessert is still a truly tempting treat for anyone.

You will need:

For the baklava
Baking tray - square shaped, perhaps 20cm and a few centimeters deeps
80g unsalted butter (melted)
270g packet filo pastry.  You should have about 12 sheets in total; if it comes in the packet with 6 large sheets just cut them in half.
100g dessicated coconut, plus extra for sprinkling
100g unsalted pistachios, coarsley chopped or blended.  The rougher the better so don't spend ages trying to get them evenly chopped!
70g sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground rose petals (available from Seasoned Pioneers, just grind the whole petals)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamon powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For the syrup
200g honey
Juice of half a lemon
100ml water
1 teaspoon green cardamon pods
1 cinnamon quill
2 tablespoons rose petals
Preheat the oven to 180C

Mix the pistachio, coconut, spices and sugar in a bowl

Butter the base of the tray and layer 4 of the 12 sheets (1/3 of them) onto the tray, brushing each individual sheet with melted butter before layering the next sheet on.

After layering 4 sheets, spread half of the coconut and pistachio mix onto the pastry evenly.

Layer another 4 sheets of filo on top of the nut mix, brushing each sheet with butter again.

Spread the last of the nut mix and then layer the final 4 sheets of filo, brushing with butter a final time.  Make sure the last few sheets drape slightly over the edge so that as you brush with butter the filling is completely sealed in.

Carefully carve the baklava into triangles and then bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
In the meantime, heat the honey, water, lemon juice with the cinnamon quill (snapped into pieces), most of the rose petals and the cardamon pods (cracked open - put the pods in a small bag and hit them with a rolling pin.  Very theraputic)!

When hot, turn off and allow the spices to steep into the syrup.
When the baklava is cooked, strain the syrup over the still hot baklava and sprinkle the remaining rose petals and dessicated coconut over the top.
Allow to cool then carefully remove from the pan and store in an airtight container.  Unless of course you want to eat them all at once.  Don't worry, I won't tell on you!