Baklava

Preparation time: 40 minutes, plus cooling. Cooking time: 35 minutes, plus cooling. Makes: 16

  • 200g raw almonds
  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 100g pistachio nuts, shelled
  • 5 tbsp caster sugar
  • 400g pack phyllo pastry
  • 200g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • finely-grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Syrup

  • 350g caster sugar
  • finely-pared zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1tsp orange blossom water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, roughly broken

If possible, make the syrup the day before and leave in the fridge. Put the sugar, lemon zest and juice, and cinnamon in a small saucepan with 450ml water. Set over a medium heat and stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer gently until it forms a thin syrup. This will take about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and tip into a bowl. Cover and cool, but do not strain. Chill when cold.

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Liberally butter a baking dish of around 30 x 20cm.

Chop the almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios roughly in a food processor or by hand, working in small batches of about 100g at a time. Mix with the caster sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest and set aside.

Unwrap the phyllo pastry and, if necessary, roughly measure and trim the sheets to ensure that they fit your container. They will shrink slightly, so allow an extra 1cm. Brush the first sheet with lots of melted butter and spread over the base of your container. Continue to butter and layer the sheets until you have about five layers, completely covering the base, then scatter them with one third of the nuts. Cover with three more layers of pastry, then sprinkle with half of the remaining nuts before covering with another three layers of pastry. Scatter with the remaining nuts then top with another eight layers of pastry. Liberally brush the top with melted butter.

With a sharp knife, gently cut through the top layers of pastry to mark out about 16 squares, diamonds or rectangles. Do not cut all the way through. This will help when you come to serve.

Put the baklava in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, then increase the temperature to 200°C and bake for 10 minutes. It is ready when it looks golden and cooked through. Meanwhile, remove the cinnamon from the syrup. As soon as you remove the baklava from the oven, quickly and evenly pour the cold syrup over it. Leave to cool. When cold, cut the pieces along the original lines and serve with a strong Greek-style coffee. This recipe improves with time, so try making it a day before the time. Delicious served with a generous dollop of Greek yoghurt.

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Recipe by Diane Heierli • Photography & Styling C&D Heierli