Tatlı yiyelim, tatlı konuşalım or ‘Let’s eat sweet and talk sweet’ has to be my favourite Turkish expression. It’s definitely the perfect way to describe having a slice or two of sticky, sweet, nutty Walnut and Orange Blossom Baklava with a strong Turkish coffee and a good gossip with friends. Tomorrow evening will mark the end of the long month of Ramadan, with the celebrations of Eid-al-Fitr. After the long period of fasting, this is usually a night of family and feasting for Muslims around the world. In Cyprus and Turkey, Eid-al-Fitr is more commonly known as Şeker Bayramı – the ‘Sugar Feast’.
It’s customary on this day for the neighbourhood children to go door to door, wishing everybody a Happy Bayram. In return, they are given small sweets and toys, not unlike Halloween, though without the ghouls and ghosts. As with any feast day, the sharing of sweets is not limited to the kids. Neighbours, friends and even people passing on the street are all encouraged to sample from huge trays of baklava and lokum (Turkish Delight), while people gather, talk and eat long into the night.
This is the busiest day of the year for the many Baklavari (Baklava bakeries) across Turkey and Cyprus, with long queues of people ordering boxes of baklava by the kilo. However, baklava is simple enough to make at home, and I think tastes even better when it’s fresh. The most expensive baklava is made mostly of pistachios, from the famous region of Gaziantep. In most of the rest of the world, pistachios are quite a luxury item these days, so I make my baklava with a mixture of walnuts and almonds, topped with just enough pistachio to give them a beautiful colour.
Scent can trigger the most incredible memories. For me, orange blossom will always transport me directly to beautiful Cyprus. I have so spent so many wonderful nights sitting in Cypriot gardens under the stars, while the perfume of orange blossom and night jasmine drifts languidly through the humid air. I like to load my baklava up with plenty of orange blossom water, though you can flavour it however you like, rose water or lemon are both delicious.
Take care out there, happy cooking, and to all my friends celebrating tomorrow, İyi Bayramlar!
Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!
for the syrup:
- 250g sugar
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 strips lemon peel
- 1 Tbsp orange blossom water
for the filling:
- 200g walnuts
- 200g almonds
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- zest of 1 orange or 1 lemon
- pinch of salt
for the pastry:
- 150g butter, melted
- 250g filo pastry, defrosted if frozen approx 24-30 sheets
- 2 Tbsp pistachios, finely chopped
To make the syrup, heat the sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel and 125ml water in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the peel, stir in the orange blossom water and set aside.
Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4. Brush the base and sides of a 20x30cm ovenproof dish with melted butter, and remove the filo pastry from the fridge.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the walnuts to fine crumbs. Don’t leave the food processor running or else you will end up with walnut butter! Tip the walnuts into a mixing bowl and repeat with the almonds. Pour the almonds into the bowl, stir through the cinnamon, orange zest, salt and 2 Tbsp of the melted butter.
Lay the filo pastry on a large chopping board, place the baking dish on top and trip the filo to fit (see note). Wrap the trimmings tightly in clingfilm and return to the refrigerator and cover the remainder with a clean, damp cloth. Place one sheet of filo into the bottom of the baking dish, brush well with butter, then place another sheet on top. Repeat with 6 more sheets, buttering between each one.
Spread half of the nut mixture evenly over the pastry then cover with another filo sheet. Press down on the pastry gently, then brush with butter. Repeat with 7 more sheets, buttering between each. Spread over the remaining nut mixture, top with a sheet of filo, pressing down gently, then brush with butter. Repeat with all remaining sheets, buttering between each. If there is any leftover butter, pour it over the top of the last sheet.
Chill for 10 minutes, then use a small, sharp knife to cut the baklava down to halfway through in a diamond pattern. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
In the last 5 minutes of baking time, reheat the syrup (it will have thickened). When the baklava has cooked, remove from the oven and immediately pour over the syrup. Take your time, allowing the syrup to soak and cover every part of the baklava.
Allow to cool 5 minutes, then decorate with chopped pistachios. Allow to cool completely, at least 2 hours - overnight before slicing and serving. Do not refrigerate, store at room temperature.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 26 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 224Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 124mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 2gSugar: 12gProtein: 4g
Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Doesn’t baklava have honey in it?
Greek-style baklava is made with honey, where Turkish baklava has sugar syrup. If you like, mix and match by stirring a little honey through the cooked syrup.
I can’t find orange blossom water! What can I use instead?
You can use any flavouring you like, or just let the flavour of the nuts shine through. I like lemon and rose, and I have a feeling elderflower would work beautifully too.
How do I store baklava?
Baklava is best kept loosely covered at room temperature. Make sure you keep it away from any ants!
What can I do with the leftover filo?
You could try making börek, or use it scrunched up as the topping for a pie. It freezes perfectly so if you’re not sure what to use it for, wrap it well in clingfilm, put it in a freezer bag and freeze until you need it.