He had even bribed little Lemoni to go down to the beach and find them, and this involved inducing Palagia to make the little honey-pastries that Lemoni loved.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres, Chapter 13
Honey-pastries could refer to any number of delicious sweet treats, so I've replaced 'Lemoni' with 'Kate' in the quote above, and run with the honey-pastries I love. I've previously written about the four days I spent in Istanbul last year: about the food, and the hospitality, and the Spice Market, but I think it's necessary to touch on it again here. As a long-term lover of baklava, I ate far too much on the trip, and also upon my arrival back home (I brought a small box back for my work colleagues that never made it into the office). I lost count of the different types of baklava I enjoyed - pistachio, walnut, almond, chocolate covered, some with fine strands of pastry, and some with phyllo.
For my first attempt at making baklava, I wanted to try a simple one - phyllo pastry layered with walnuts, almonds and drenched in honey. Captain Corelli's Mandolin is set on a Greek Island, rather than in Turkey, but baklava is commonly found in both countries; phyllo is a Greek word, but making it is a Turkish technique. It's a lovely pastry to work with, but does require a little care. It's brittle and can dry out incredibly quickly, so keep it under a damp tea towel when you're not working with it. Apart from that, this recipe is much easier than you'd expect - a little time consuming in the assembly, but very simple in the techniques.
Careful with this, as it's addictive. It's tooth-achingly sweet, but also so perfect with a strong coffee that I found myself justifying a piece of it with breakfast. Make when friends are around to help you get through the batch. It will keep for a good week, but is better on the first day, before the phyllo becomes too soggy.
The recipe below is based on one by Tessa Kiros, in her terrific book Food From Many Greek Kitchens.
Makes around 26 uneven slices (see above)
300g nuts (I used half almonds and half walnuts) blitzed in a food processor, but with some texture
2tsp ground cinnamon
22 sheets of phyllo pastry that fit the dimensions of your dish (which might come out of one packet, or a couple)
150g melted butter
1tbsp lemon juice
3 cinnamon rolls
Tea towel, dampened
Ovenproof dish, around 25cm square
1. Heat the oven to 180C. Mix the nuts, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Cut the phyllo to the size of your dish, and place under the damp tea towel. Place the melted butter near your workspace.
2. Brush the base and sides of your dish with butter. Lay one sheet of phyllo on the bench, and brush with butter. Lay another sheet on top, and brush again. Continue with more phyllo until you have ten layers of pastry. Transfer the whole lot into the dish. Sprinkle half of the nuts over the pastry, then pat it down and level it out.
3. Cover with another slice of phyllo, butter it, and place a second one on top. Scatter the rest of the nuts over the pastry and flatten out again. Layer and butter the final ten layers of phyllo on the bench again, and then transfer the stack into the dish, on top of the nuts.
4. Butter the top of the pastry, then slice through the layers in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife. Flick with a little cold water and then bake for 25 minutes in the oven.
5. While the baklava is baking, prepare the syrup. Put all syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for six minutes until reduced, then take off the heat to cool.
6. Once the baklava is golden brown, remove from the oven. Pour half the syrup over the top, wait for it to be absorbed and then pour over the rest. Serve when cool.