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BaklavaLiving where I do in New Zealand has one major drawback. Sure the expansive ocean views I have are incredible, sitting on the veranda watching the sunset over the horizon is spectacular, living in the heart of 'middle earth' is a dream . . . but yes it has its drawbacks.

Sure we have some of the best local produce one can wish for; in fact in my freezer right now I have some prime New Zealand lamb and beef, wild boar, venison, kangaroo and even some crocodile! I can grow virtually anything in my garden because of the climate . . . for my Thai dishes I just pop out and pick some fresh kaffir lime leaves right off the tree.

But the one major drawback, well at least for any chef, is the fact that we have little in the way of ethnic restaurants . . . I can not just pop out for some sushi, it is not a short drive to the local Dalmatian Deli, or a brisk walk for some well earned Spanish tapas and a cold beer after a day in the kitchen. These 'treats' are a three hour drive away through alpine roads or a twenty-five minute flight over the southern alps to Christchurch. So I guess one cannot have it all . . . one can not have one's cake and eat it too! Or can you?

When I want any of these ethnic dishes I have to wait until my next trip away . . . or make it myself! A treat and a challenge for a chef. One of my favourite dishes, one of my standbys, that can be easily produced when a great dessert is required, is Baklava. Hailing from many of the Mediterranean countries - it is popular in Greece, Turkey, Morocco and many others. No doubt many of you have tried it on your travels or at your local deli or Greek restaurant? Well why not read on and get to know how you can produce this delicious, rich dessert yourself.

Before tackling it though, ensure you read my Chef's tips on using filo pastry as this is the paper thin pastry popular in Greek cuisine that is now readily available in supermarkets. It comes either in large rectangular sheets or round sheets, this recipe supposes you are using the more common rectangular sheets. If you have the round ones, replace the tray with a spring form cake tin. Besides this dish, filo pastry can also be used:

  • in place of puff pastry for pasties or beef Wellington
  • in place of wonton wrappers
  • in fact in can replace many styles of pastries for a lighter style dish

Ingredients for Baklava

filo pastry
melted butter
chopped peanuts
chopped walnuts
chopped pistachios

How to make Baklava

  • Lightly butter a deep sided tray

  • Layer with two sheets of pastry and brush with melted butter

  • Sprinkle with the various chopped nuts

  • Add two more sheets of pastry and continue layering with the nuts and melted butter until the tray is full

  • Brush the final layer of pastry with melted butter

  • Carefully cut into portions

  • Place into a pre-heated oven - 180ºC on the middle shelf until a light golden brown

  • While it is baking remove some of the orange zest and finely chop, set aside

  • Juice the oranges and place in a thick bottom saucepan with the sugar and water

  • Simmer gently until a light syrup consistency is achieved

  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes

  • Stir in the chopped orange zest

  • When the baklava is cooked, remove from the oven and place the tray on a cooling rack

  • Brush generously with the orange syrup until all the syrup has been used, or alternatively gently pour it all over and allow to sit at room temperature to steep for at least two hours

  • As this dessert is so rich and sweet, I always like to serve it with either a thick natural yoghurt, marscapone cheese or some creme fraiche . . . a few tart berries never go amiss either!

Chef's Tip for Baklava:

In place of the orange syrup try making the Baklava with lime juice or some rose water.

The nuts I have given may be replaced with your own favourites: pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamias, etc.

For something a little different try rolling the pastry sheets up like a cigar and cutting it into fine shreds; called chiffonade. Layer and use these the same way as above.

Filo or phyllo pastry will dry out very quickly when exposed to the air. When using it one should have all other mise en place (preparation) ready and at hand. If the temperature of your kitchen is really hot, place a clean, damp tea towel over the pastry when not in use.

Enjoy your Baklava and bon appetit . . . . .

Chef's terminology:

litres   tsp = teaspoon
millelitres   tbs = tablespoon
kilograms   sq = sufficient quantity (add to taste)
grams   pc = piece, meaning a whole one of

Recipe from professional
Chef Tallyrand

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com