Assyrian Baklava

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Baklava is widely associated with Greece, but believe it or not, us Assyrians were the first people to layer nuts with flat bread and honey back in the 8th century B.C. Greek sea merchants discovered this decadent treat as they were traveling to Mesopotamia, and took the recipe back to Athens.

There are as many regional recipes for this delight as there are ways to pronounce it, but this is my family’s version. Passed from my Granny to my mum, who has adapted it and actually worked out the measurements rather than adding a dash or this and pinch or that, this recipe is very close to my heart. So much so in fact that I’m almost reluctant to share it! It’s a taste of home, a taste of my childhood and a taste of my heritage.  Make it with passion and eat it with love.

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Four generations of the Assyrian side of the family. Granny, mum, me and my daughter a few years ago.

You’ll need:
1 packet of filo pastry (6 large sheets)
4oz butter
8oz crushed pistachio nuts (walnuts or almonds work well too)
4oz brown sugar
1 level tsp green cardamom seeds crushed

For the sauce:
2oz dark sugar
2oz honey
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons rose water
1 level tsp crushed green cardamom seeds

Melt the butter. Brush an oblong cake tin with butter before laying one of the filo sheets on top folding any excess back on itself. Brush this with butter and add a second and third brushing each with the butter.

Mix the pistachio nuts, 4oz brown sugar and a teaspoon of crushed cardamom together and sprinkle over the filo sheets. Layer up the remaining filo sheets on top of the nut mixture brushing each with butter as you go, except the top one (brushing it with butter will make it brown too fast when baking).

Cut the baklava into diamonds before baking at 160oC for about 30 minutes.

Whilst it’s baking, make the sauce by heating all the other ingredients in a saucepan until it boils, stiring continuously. Allow it to cool before pouring over the baklava. Enjoy with a cup of coffee.

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Chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake

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This cake is not for the faint hearted, or weak hearted for that matter. If you’re watching your calorie intake you’re reading the wrong blog, as this is the ultimate in chocolate peanut butter blow outs.

A friend had given me a jar of chocolate spread, and because it’s not the type of thing I’d usually spread on my toast I wanted a recipe to use it up. Hence coming up with this beauty!

For the base I used a packet of chocolate digestive biscuits, some salted peanuts, and melted butter. Having accidently put too much butter in the biscuit crumbs, I needed to ad-lib a little using whatever I could lay my hands on to soak up the excess butter, as we didn’t have any other biscuits in. So, some pretzels and granola later the base was ready. I pressed it into a springform tin and chilled it whilst making the topping.

The topping was completely made up as I went along. I whipped approx 300ml double cream  then mixed in 500g mascarpone, a jar of smooth peanut butter and a jar of chocolate spread. It needed a bit of something sour to cut through the richness and about 200ml of natural yoghurt did the trick.  After spreading the topping on the base I drizzled about 50g melted milk chocolate over the cheesecake and sprinkled with crushed salted peanuts. Leave to set in the fridge over night.

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This dessert was one of a few I did for a welcome home party for some friends who had just arrived back from a round the world adventure.

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I also did a rhubarb, strawberry and rose water pavlova:

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Mini creme pat and filo, fruit tartlets (recipe here) :

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A fruit platter and a cheeseboard.

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It was a great success and a lovely evening was had by all.

Simply stunning and stunningly simple fruit tartlets

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I don’t know about you but I find great satisfaction in serving guests scrumptious little morsels that taste as delicious as they look. These fruit tartlets definitely fall into the edible art category, but they are ridiculously simple to boot. Happy days.

Firstly, make a Creme Patissiere (pastry cream).This can be made the day before and kept in the fridge until ready to serve. I used Raymond Blanc’s recipe on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pastry_cream_36417

Cut sheets of filo into squares and put one square into each hole in a cupcake tray, brush with butter the repeat until you have three layers. Bake for around 8 minutes until golden and crispy.

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Cut up whatever fruit takes your fancy. I used clementine, grapes, strawberries and blueberries.

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Spoon the Creme Patissiere into the filo tartlet cases and adorn with the fruit. Dust with icing sugar et voila. Enjoy immediately.

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