The good news is that I’ve done another book review for RNIB Connect radio (talking about three novels I’ve just read) plus my third on-line cooking demo (for the Braillist Foundation https://www.braillists.org) to share some of my cooking tips. The bad news is that I didn’t make the grade for a TV commercial – the casting company was super-polite but they didn’t want me. One day, you might see the ad and remember that I was completely the wrong person to play the elderly, blind grandmother! Those of you who know me will not be surprised.
But the triumph of the week has been making baclava: indulgently sticky and sweet with our home-produced honey; fragrant with cardamom and orange; crunchy with hand-cracked French walnuts, toasted and sliced. I’ve had to protect the outstanding results from marauding fingers. But it is blissfully simple and a wonderful way of celebrating our autumn honey harvest. Any good honey from a local producer would be just as successful.
300g shelled walnuts, toasted and cut into pieces.
3 tablespoons honey
12 cardamom pods, husks removed and contents chopped
Zest of 1 orange
200g butter, melted
2 packs 270g filo pastry
Juice of half an orange.
Mix the 3 tablespoons of honey, walnuts, cardamom and orange zest (I left overnight to infuse together).
Heat oven gas 4
Brush the bottom of a baking tray with butter.
Place a sheet of filo pastry on the bottom of the tin and brush with butter, repeat with the rest of the pack to give a firm base.
Spread the nut and honey mix on the pastry.
Place the first sheet of pastry from the second pack on top of the nuts, brush with butter and repeat to use the rest of the pack.
Cut through all the layers to make squares of baclava – about one-inch square.
Pour over any remaining butter.
Place in oven for 20 minutes and then reduce temperature to Gas 2 for a further 30 minutes – the top should be browned. Run a knife through the cuts made earlier.
Pour the honey and orange juice syrup over the baclava and allow to cool.
There are many different flavour variations: cinnamon, pistachio nuts and more so that you can choose whatever you like best. We had a huge bag of French walnuts, still in their shells which meant they had kept very well for nearly two years. Otherwise, I keep all my shelled nuts in the freezer as walnuts and Brazil nuts particularly can taste rather rancid if not used quickly.
It is definitely worth finding a metal tray that fits the sheets of filo pastry closely – if not, alternate the positions or cut the sheets to fit the tin. Don’t be tempted to make in a foil tray unless you can be sure not to cut through the bottom and lose the syrup.
This is a fabulous way of using nuts and honey but also utterly wicked when it comes to counting the calories – I’m going to share with friends so that the temptation is removed.