Tessa Kiros’s cookbooks leave me with a dilemma. Do I store them in the kitchen with the other cookbooks or put them on top of the coffee table in the living room on display, because they are just so damn good looking? Kiros writes a beautiful cookbook. I already own her other book Falling Cloudberries, which is the sort of book you would be happy to just spend time with admiring and looking at the pictures without ever actually cooking anything out of it. Food From Many Greek Kitchens continues in this vein. It is part cook book, part travelogue and part photography book. The photographs almost have a documentary style feel to them, including great photos of general stores and clothes hanging on the line to dry as well as the expected food shots.
The finished baklava
The great thing about Kiros’s books though is not only do they look pretty, and read entertainingly, the recipes also work. In this book, Kiros has collected recipes from the Greek kitchens of her friends and family (her father is Greek-Cypriot) and each of the recipes has a lovely sense of history and place. I tested out the recipe for baklava, a dessert I have always loved but have never made before. The recipe was much easier than I expected, and looked very impressive once finished. What’s not to love about a dish that Kiros describes as looking like a Chanel handbag thanks to its quilted pattern. It did taste a little heavier than shop bought baklava, however this could have been over enthusiastic use of butter by me.
Hmmm – is it a coffee table book or a cook book?
150g almonds crushed but with some texture – I broke them up using a mortar and pestle
150g walnuts crushed but with some texture.
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
22 sheets of filo pastry cut to the dimensions of your dish
150g butter melted to golden brown
20 or so whole cloves
2 tbsp honey
1/2 lemon juiced and a strip of lemon peel
1 cinnamon roll
Inside the beautifully presented book
1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
2. Make the syrup by putting all the ingredients for it in a saucepan with one cup of water and bringing to the boil while stirring. Simmer for five to six minutes then take off the heat and cool.
3. Mix the almonds, walnuts, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.
The crushed nut mixture
4. Have the filo sheets ready covered with a slightly damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out.
5. Brush the base of an ovenproof dish with butter.
6. Cover with another sheet of filo, laying it on top and smoothing it out like you would a bed sheet. Brush this with butter and then repeat for ten sheets of pastry.
7. Once you get to ten sheets, spread half the nut mixture over the filo, patting it down firmly. Cover with another two sheets of filo, buttering each one. Scatter the remainder of the nuts over the filo and pat down firmly again.
8. Now repeat step six.
9. Cut diamonds on the diagonal, making sure to cut all the way through the filo pastry to make bite sized squares. Flick a little cold water over the top to prevent the layers from curling up. Stud the centre of each diamond with a clove.
10. Bake for 25 to 30 mins or until gently golden on top. Remove from the oven and gently pour half the syrup all over the baklava. Wait for it to be absorbed and then pour over the rest.
11. Leave to cool totally before serving. Will keep unrefrigerated for a week.
Brushing the filo sheets with butter
Thanks to Murdoch books for the review copy of Food From Many Greek Kitchens.