Every household or at least the ones I have been in have their own family recipe of baklava. This is the fabulous Turkish pastry that is a mix of very thin flaky pastry filled with nuts and honey syrup. Depending on the area you are from the nuts can be pistachio, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or a mixture of all.
I cheat, when I’m in Turkey I go to the Yufkacı (maker of Turkish style filo pastry) and buy the pastry. You can use filo or buy from a Turkish or Greek specialty shop. There is no way I can roll it as thin as the ladies I have met. They use an extremely long thin rolling pin and roll to less than 1mm thick – they are very proud of their skills in this and rightly so – mine just came out in holes!
So cheating makes it simple…
Grease a deep based baking tray. Place a layer of dough over it. Sprinkle a handful of your choice of nut, don’t over fill, Continue to layer like this. How many layers you ask – how long is a piece of string. Really up to your own judgment, I would go for 6-8 layers. End with a dough layer.
Cut into 2-4cm rectangles. Put into 180˚C for 30mins
Cook 1kg sugar with 250grams of water until sugar dissolves and it is starting to thicken. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice, I tbsp honey. Mix together. Let cool.
Pour the cooled syrup over lukewarm baklava and leave for up to an hour in a cool place. Serve with ice-cream if you want and if you can get kahramanmaraș ice-cream you will be in heaven. This is s special ice-cream that you can ‘cut with a knife’.
Over the years I have built up my standard stock cupboard. Gone are the convenience foods of a normal British kitchen. Now you open my cupboards to find, dried beans, dried chickpeas, lentils green and red. My fridge always has some salça in it. This is the tomato paste that is the basis for many the food dishes eaten day to day. There is also biber salçası – pepper paste, which tends to be a lot hotter. A lot of the regular meals are vegetarian, one of the most popular is kuru fusulye – Dried beans. You can add any meat as I explain in the recipe below it then becomes etli kuru fasulye ( Dried beans with meat).
When I’m in Turkey I make my own version which starts 24hrs before. In Turkey when you buy mince it is in a piece, normally brisket which they mince to the amount you require. When I first came here trying to buy it without mincing was quite a feat, the butcher would be quite reluctant to let you have it explaining it was tough and not for frying. Most of the butchers dealing with Yabanci (foreigners) now know we use and we are strange and that we use slow cookers. These are still a hard to find item in Turkish shops. Mine came with me from the UK, a tale in itself.
So slow-cook about half kilo meat. Timing depends on the cut of meat you choose. I like brisket. I only add salt and pepper at this stage.
Put your dried beans to soak overnight – about 500grams
Following day in my pressure cooker, I soft fry an onion and whatever vegetables I feel like, normally a carrot, a courgette and leek. Then I add a big tablespoonful of salça and mix in. Then I add my herbs, normally oregano and cayenne pepper but you could add chili pepper/flakes here.
I then add in the meat & drained beans and ensure there is enough stock to cover everything.
I cook pressurized for 25 minutes. Then leave to cool. Taste, adjust seasoning as required. Now I tend to leave this another 6-7hrs as I think the taste develops better. Serve hot with side salad and lovely crispy Turkish bread.