My friend M had her birthday recently. What I didn't realise was that her birthday is the same date as my our wedding anniversary so when we booked our trip to New Zealand months ago I didn't realise that we'd be missing out on her birthday. She is such a good friend that she postponed her birthday celebration until we returned. She was having a celebration where a friend of hers Sara, a lovely lady that makes all manner of fantastic Persian delicacies, was making the food for her. So in turn I offered to make dessert for her and I have been dying to try and make a Baklava. I was inspired by Alejandra's delicious Orange Hazelnut baklava and adapted her recipe.
I adore this dessert, it's so sweet, sticky and delicious. I wanted to make something that fit the occasion and a flavouring such as rose and pistachio immediately sprang to mind. It's one of my favourite combinations - if you're a regular reader you'll see evidence of my obsession with rose. While I was clarifying the butter I wondered if somehow browned butter would work. Browned butter is wonderfully aromatic with its nutty aroma so what better way to enhance the nutty flavour of a Baklava than using browned butter instead of regular melted butter.
I was nervous, this was my first time making baklava properly. I don't usually do unusual things for events such as this where other people are tasting my food-certainly I felt out on a limb making baklava for the first time already but when you're out on a branch, you may as well enjoy your time on the edge. The key to not having a soggy baklava is that the syrup and he pastry must be at opposite temperatures. Either you pour cold syrup over the hot baklava or warm syrup over the cold baklava. I chose the former as the timing suited me to make the syrup the night before and store it in the fridge.
Zereshk Polo Ba Zaferon: Saffron rice with berries
Tadige Nan: crunchy bread
Today is also the day for Persian New Year (at 10pm to be precise) which is what I learned from talking to Sara. We were lucky to try these fantastic dishes which she painstakingly made over 2 days. We were dining with Sara & Shahram; Dean and Penny; Esan and Ellie, Laura and of course M and her boys.
Khoreshte Gheyme Bademjan: Eggplant and lentils with tomato
Shirin Polo: Saffron rice with meatballs
Sara made Persian rice studded with berries, saffron rice with mini meatballs, a delicious eggplant bake with a lentil-ey bean, a rice, egg and chicken layered dish and gorgeously crunchy bread. We feel absolutely spoilt by all of the delicious food. "Sale No Mobarak" or Happy New Year in Persian!
Tachine Morgh: Rice layered with chicken and egg
And did the baklava work? Thankfully it worked a treat. The baklava was crunchy with a light aroma of rose and the ultimate compliment came from the Persian and Iranian guests Sara and Ellie who were very complimentary about it. And like an actress drawn to the drama, or a moth to the flame I am a ham when it comes to food and compliments like that only spur me on and encourage me to enjoy my time out on the proverbial limb.
Rose & Pistachio Browned Butter Baklava
An original recipe by Not Quite Nigella
Makes 16 triangles
375 grams/13.25ozs packed of Filo pastry sheets (refrigerated kind)
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup pistachios, ground in a food processor
1/2 cup almonds, ground in a food processor
2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1.5 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon rosewater essence
4 strips of orange zest
3 strips of lemon zest
Step 1 - Make the syrup first. It will need 1.5 hours to cool at room temperature and is best when cold so I like to make this the night before. Combine all ingredients on low heat until sugar dissolves completely. Then turn up heat to medium high and boil for 20 minutes until syrup thickens and turns a slight golden shade. Cool at room temperature and then refrigerate for best results.
Step 2 - Brown and clarify the butter. Simmer the butter until it becomes white and foamy on top, skim off this white foam and discard the foam. Turn heat up a little to medium and when it starts to brown remove from heat (the aroma is a good way to tell, it will smell nutty). Set aside.
Step 3 - In a large bowl, combine the nuts, breadcrumbs and spices i.e. everything for the pastry except for the pastry itself. Ensure that it is mixed well.
Step 4 - Unwrap the Filo and using a sharp knife trim the pastry so that it fits your pan (slightly larger is better than slightly smaller). Place excess pastry back in the packet and refrigerate.
Step 5 - Wet a teatowel until damp but not soaking and cover the filo with the teatowel to stop it from drying out.
Step 6 - Using a pastry brush, layer 10 layers of pastry across bottom. Brush between each layer with the melted butter. Since my pastry was just over double the size I used 5 sheets of Filo.
Step 7 - Using a spoon distribute a thin layer of the nut mixture on top of the 10 layers of Filo. Then keep alternating 2 layers of buttered Filo with a thin layer of the nut mixture until the nut mixture is used up. Then finish with layering with Filo pastry and buttering between each layer. Butter top layer too.
Step 8 - Using a sharp knife, cut a cross into the baklava and then cut triangles as shown. I used a sharp knife to cut through most of the layers but then a blunter knife to get right to the bottom so that it didn't break the foil tin. Butter edges with more butter. You may have some butter leftover (use it for a pasta or gnocchi sauce, it's delicious).
Step 9 - Bake in the 180C/350F degree oven for 30 minutes then lower the heat to 150C/300F and continue baking for 30 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up slightly and taken on a light golden hue.
10 . Remove pastry from oven and while it is still very hot, carefully pour the syrup over, a bit at a time until the syrup is absorbed. The pastry will make a satisfying crackle when you do this. You may not need to use all of the syrup (it's delicious with sparkling mineral water).
Step 11 - Cool at room temperature. Store at room temperature for 2-3 days.