Thursday was a grumpy day: grey, raining and August for God’s sake! I almost got run down three times on the way to work, then was forced to miss two deadlines due to a combination of faulty systems and late vendors... I got soaked huddled in a doorway over a tupperware of lukewarm soup for lunch and utterly drenched on the cycle home. By the time I got home, I. Was. GRUMPY!
Thankfully, I spent an hour in self-imposed solitary confinement, making dinner for my family. They arrived, blissfully not hangry or the evening would have ended in tears before it even began. Every time I see them they're laden with gifts, this time it was hundreds of jam jars, two baby ferns a lavendar and (joy of joys), a spare rolling pin. Move over cling filmed bottle!
Months ago, one of the presents Mum and Dad brought me was some Greek honey from my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Poros. What a difference good quality honey makes - usually it's too cloying and sickly sweet for my tastes but this stuff is amazing! You can actually taste the citrusy flowers... It seemed fitting to turn some into Baklava... so never having tried to make it before I found this recipe to follow.
While on the Greek theme I decided to start the meal with a dip made from yellow lentils called Fava. I was introduced to it in Poros and am hooked! It's a similar concept to hoummus but much more interesting and terrifyingly more-ish! Apparently, it's a winter dish but who could restrict themselves to eating something so good for just quarter of the year?
And so, with good food and a healthy dose of denial I forgot the rain drumming on the roof and got lost in a case of the warm and cosys. This morning dawned a perfect day – cool air, warm sun... life and leftovers are good...
Soak the lentils overnight in cold water. The next day drain and rinse then place in a pan with the garlic. Cover in fresh water and bring to the boil.
Boil until dry and very soft – you may need to add more water during the cooking if it dries out before the lentils collapse, just keep an eye on it.
Leave to cool then stir in a really generous drizzle of good quality olive oil and the lemon juice.
Top with the red onion and capers and drizzle with more olive oil. Mix at the table and serve with toasted pitta breads to dip.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Toss the mixed nuts and cinnamon together.
Butter the inside of your chosen dish. Place two layers of pastry in the bottom of the dish and sprinkle with approximately 3tbsp of the nut/cinnamon mixture. Place another double layer of pastry over and brush with butter.
Repeat until your ingredients are used up – finish with pastry as the top layer. Cut the raw baklava into individual portions. I believe diamonds are traditional?
Bake in the oven for approximately 50 minutes or until golden and crispy.
Meanwhile during the last 20 minutes of cooking place the sugar, water and lemon zest in a pan and gently heat until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer 20 minutes until the pastry is cooked.
As soon as the pastry comes out of the oven spoon over the sugar syrup. Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios. Finally, gently heat the honey until it is liquefied and drizzle over the top.
Leave to cool completely and serve with greek yogurt and/or vanilla icecream.
Fava: (serves 4)
4 handfuls of yellow split lentils
1 clove of garlic, peeled, whole
1 lemon, juice
1 small red onion, finely diced
Pitta breads, to serve
Baklava: (serves 4-6)
250g mixed nuts, chopped
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 pack of filo pastry
100g butter, melted
¼ tsp lemon zest
50g pistachios, chopped