Thursday, 27 August 2009

Sweet and Savoury Baklava

I am not a person who is into buying make up, jewellery, clothing, shoes, or going out to eat or drink – my one compulsion is to buy cookbooks, with my most recent purchase Maria Elia The Modern Vegetarian being about two months ago. To my knowledge, Elia is not a vegetarian, nor a vegetarian cook. She joins a long line of U.K celebrity chefs that are beginning to breathe new life into the way people see vegetarian cuisine. I had flicked through the book a little while ago in the bookstore and like many cookbooks before, I knew I could do without this one too, yet in my head I had persuaded myself to get it and to go on my already burgeoning bookshelf.

I sat with it yesterday evening, looking at the colour coordinated photographs. Many of the recipes to my ‘vegetarian cooks eye’ look familiar, but to those new to vegetarian cooking will certainly view it as innovative. A number of simple dishes have been given a modern make-over with relatively unknown ingredients in the U.K like sumac and dukkah and some ingredients deemed to be vegetarian and vegan friendly are made more appealing to the eye, for example you can’t go wrong deep fat frying tofu cubes in ginger beer batter, these morsels would even tempt meat eating colleagues. Maria Elia also presents old fashioned dishes that have fallen out of limelight such as the pea custard in a more delectable and stylish manner. Some of the fusion recipes reminded me of the works of other chefs, namely Paul Gayler, Nadine Abensur and Peter Gordon. The way we bloggers are influenced by fellow bloggers to recreate and evolve dishes, it must be so of cooks and chefs, surely!

Anyway, I liked it enough to buy the book. For me it is good to see mainstream chefs creating vegetarian and vegan food that could appeal to everybody. Okay so what did I decide to make from it? The Tomato, feta and date Baklava, leaped out for two reasons. Firstly, I had an abundance of home grown onions and tomatoes and secondly, the combination of feta and dates seemed unusual and I am always willing to try new flavours, however odd they seem at first glance.
Oh another thing, I did not follow the recipe accordingly, I made some adjustments along the way. Hence the slight change in title recipe. It was actually very nice, I think the dates in the pastry contrasted really well with the savoury saltiness of the feta. I served it with home made Greek cucumber Tzazki.
Sweet and Savoury Baklava
Serves 4 - 6
100ml olive oil
3 white onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 generous teaspoon dried dill
8 tomatoes, roughly chopped, I used a mixture of what I had
2 teaspoons tomato puree
Packet of ready made spring roll pastry. I use TYJ Spring Roll pastry
100g melted butter
100g dates, stones and finely sliced
200g feta cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Heat the oil in a large bottomed pan. Gently fry the onions over a low heat, add the garlic and cinnamon and increase the heat. Fry until caramelised. Add the dill, tomatoes and tomato puree and cook until reduced.
Brush a square cake tin approximately 8x8 inch with melted butter, line each side of the square tin with a sheet of spring roll pastry, brush with butter and repeat until you have 12 layer thickness.
For me it is important that the bottom layer has more layers of pastry as it will absorb most of the tomato juices.
Spread half of the onion mixture over the pastry, top with the dates and half of the feta. Cover all corners with 4 layers of pastry overlapping on the tin, brushing each with melted butter and top with the mixture in order again. Cover with another 4 layers of pastry. Then bring in the overlapping pastry, until all are folded in. Lightly score the top, cutting diamonds or squares, brush with butter. Place on a baking tray and cook for 35 – 40 minutes until golden. Leave to cool a little while, before serving.
Adapted from Maria Elia's The Modern Vegetarian


  1. I have just finished eating my version of your tomato tart and it was so good thanks again for posting the recipe.

    Now you have trumped me and come up with something else for me to try and I've go to, especially as I have an abundance of spring roll pastry in the freezer, so no excuse not too. Might have to source some dates though as I alway eat them all up whenever we buy some.

  2. Gosh, this looks good, Mango. A whole different take on baklava.

  3. Thank you Kella,
    I am glad you liked the tomtart recipe, and enjoyed making your own vegan version. I would have liked to have tried some.

    In relation to this recipe. Because it is a bit messy to cut, all the pastry goes flying here and there, you may want to make a child friendly version, you follow the filling part of the recipe as is, but in relation to the pastry, instead of making it in a tin and doing all the layering process, make individual ones, just as you would a spring roll and then bake in the oven. I think if I was to make these again, I would make individual spring roll versions, which are easier to eat too. Let me know what you think.

    Oh the other thing i did not do, was drizzle honey, but I thought it was sweet enough - didn't want it tasting too much like a dessert, so it's up to you.

    Thank you Barbara,
    Yes, an interesting one too.

  4. This looks fab, Mango. Glad you've got the book - I got it a few months back and LOVE the things she does with beetroot!

  5. Well I had to come straight to your blog after dinner, to let you know that the baklava packages was a huge success. It was absolutely delicious, everyone truly enjoyed it.

    I followed your advice of wrapping it in individual parcels and the only thing I did differently was to add salt to taste to the tomato and onion sauce as it was just to sweet without.

    Thanks again for sharing this recipe, I can see myself repeating it in the near future.

  6. Oh Kella,
    I am so glad you liked them and glad that you adapted them for your vegan diet.

    D requested I make them again, so I did in the spring roll style we blogged about. So stay tuned as I will be posting it in the next couple of days. If you put your vegan version on your blog, I promise to put a link to it.

  7. I hope to write a new post tonight so check tomorrow.

  8. The cookbook sounds interesting. I wonder if we have it here--I'll have to check. The baklava looks delicious.


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