My favourite cuisine changes as often as Radio 4 mentions the word Brexit.
One day I’m dreaming of the musky, heady flavours of the Middle East, the next I’m craving the zesty freshness of fragrant Thai dishes. Last week I had a thing for Scandinavian flavours (creamy meatballs, sooooo good), whereas this week I’m all about the layered complexity in spicy Indian dishes.
I’m fickle, I know.
Good thing my loyalties in ‘real life’ are a little more reliable, eh.
Maybe it’s the wanderlust in me, but my inability to travel to far flung locations (not really an option with two munchkins) is remedied somewhat by my culinary travels. I may not be able to visit the exotic locations of my dreams, but I can taste the intoxicating flavours of the world, all from the comfort of my own home.
This time of year is unpredictable in its feel. Today was Indian summer-esque, whereas last week, hubby tempted to light the log burner (and, trust me, Mr Skinflint would NOT consider that lightly).
My cravings for food oscillate between comforting stews and fresh salads, depending on how chilly or mild the day is. I just don’t know whether to cook comforting vats of Mexican mole, or prepare colourful Italian style salads with fresh tomatoes and basil. It makes meal planning a nightmare. First world problems to the max, eh?
Autumnal flavours are my absolute favourite; I just love the season of crisp morning air and pumpkin spiced lattes. Last week, when it was chillier and galvanised by a myriad of instagram offerings, I decided to use up some of the many apples I’d been passed to make some kind of USA inspired cinnamon infused apple and cranberry pie.
But when the temperature rose again I found myself longing for vibrant Mediterranean flavours, dreaming of Greek tavernas and the sand beneath my toes.
This recipe is, for me then, the perfect halfway house, a beautiful hybrid of stateside comfort and middle eastern exoticism. It’s perfect for days that start fresh but end up sultry.
I’m not entirely sure where baklava originates from, but I’d enjoyed it whilst holidaying in Greece and Turkey, and it seems to be middle eastern speciality too. It is fragrant, crispy and gooey all at the same time. The walnuts give it a substantial bite, and the hint of lemon perfectly complements the floral honey.
The cranberry and apple addition mean that this bake not only has a more western feel, but is a little more economic than your usual baklava, normally jam packed with costly pistachios or almonds. The cheap as chips apples (or free windfalls in my case) help bulk out the filling, and cranberries are definitely on the cheaper end of dried fruit spectrum.
Eaten warm from the oven, this can be served as more of a pudding, with ice cream or creme fraiche to accompany. Allowed a few hours to luxuriate in the fragrant syrup, it transforms into a sticky bitesize beauty, best eaten alongside a cup of coffee.
So enjoy this perfect marriage of East meets West. In my opinion it’s a love story with a very happy ending.
Apple pie baklava
In a large mixing bowl, combine the apple, cranberries and walnuts. Toss well and add the spices to coat the filling ingredients.
Brush a 8 inch x 10 inch roasting tray with some of the melted butter. Cut the pastry to size and lay one sheet on top of the melted butter. Brush with more melted butter. Keep doing this until you have a stack of 6-8 buttered sheets of filo pastry.
Sprinkle the filling mixture on top and smooth to ensure it is level. Then repeat the filo pastry layering process until you have another stack of 6-8 sheets of buttered filo pastry on top. Taking a sharp knife, cut a diamond shape criss-cross pattern, ensuring that the knife cuts through all layers.
Bake in a preheated oven (180 degrees c) for approximately 1 hour, or until golden all over.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, honey, lemon juice, the pared zest, water and cloves in a large saucepan. Bring to boiling point then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes (until it has thickened a little). Set aside this syrup to cool while the baklava finishes baking.
Once baked, remove the baklava from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before pouring the syrup (ensuring to remove the zest and cloves) over it Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top of the syrup and dust with a little extra cinnamon, if desired. Allow to cool a little before cutting into portions and serving. Even better if left to absorb the syrup for a few hours!