From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Baklawa — or can too much of a good thing ever be a bad thing

DSC_1077To the uninitiated, a Lebanese meal can become an extravagance too far.  Like an overpowering if charming friend, it can keep coming at you until you are exhausted and just want to be left alone.  The mezze is often enough in itself.  Even a few plates of hummus or baba ghanouj can seem like a full meal while makanek or kibbeh are still on their way.  That’s while you ignore the huge hunks of fruit and vegetables that are piled in the middle of the table.  Then the main courses — the barbecued meat, the  honey and orange-infused salmon, the tenderest kofta…  It all means that by the time you get to the last course, the syrupy, rose-infused little pastries and cream-drenched dollops of pancake, you’re too far gone to care.  For many non-Lebanese, though, the little moue of refusal that so often greets the offer of a plate of baklawa in a Beirut restaurant can still be hard to take.  How can something so delicious be resisted?  I suppose we do have a talent for rejecting the irresistible — even when we produced it ourselves — from women to wine.   In public, anyway.  But maybe it’s just a misunderstanding.  Because baklawa isn’t really a pudding at all.  No.  It’s a treat to have with a cup of thick black Arabic coffee or the lightest mint tea — add in a shisha — on a balcony in the late afternoon before the sun precipitously falls through the high-rises and half-built towers of the eternal building site that I once called home.

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Ingredients

250g of unsalted butter 

24 leaves of filo pastry 

250g of walnuts 

250g of pistachio nuts

2 large spoons of sugar 

2 small spoons of rose water

2 large spoons of ground pistachio nuts for garnish

DSC_0978for the syrup 

2 glasses of water 

400g of custard sugar 

1 tea spoon of lemon juice

1 tea spoon of rose water 

1 tea spoon of Orange blossomDSC_0545

 

Prepare the syrup first

Put all the ingredients in a small pan, stir until the sugar is dissolved then place on the hob on a medium temperature

Stir from time to time until the syrup is no longer watery, this will take around 30-35 minutes

Leave aside to cool down.Baklawa

Meanwhile wash the walnuts and pistachios and put in a blender, add sugar, rose DSC_0975water and blend until slightly smooth.

Melt the butter in the microwave then brush the bottom of the baking tray with a little bit of melted butter

The tray should be the same size as the sheets, if not cut the sheets to measure first, to fit inside the tray

Put the first sheet of filo pastry in the tray and brush with butter

Do the same with the first 11 sheets, then spread the nuts evenly on top of the filo pastry, cover with another filo pastry sheet and brush with butter

Do the same with the other 11 sheets but make sure that the top sheet is brushed with water first, then with butter

DSC_1009Cut the pastry with a sharp knife in a diamond shape or any shape of your choice

If the knife sticks to the sheets dip the top edge with water

Put the tray in a preheated oven at 200 degrees, in the lower shelf and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden

Remove from oven and pour the syrup on top while it is hot, garnish with ground pistachio and serve hot or cold. DSC_1024

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