Pride and Prejudice Pasta!

Today, I am excited to share a story and delicious recipe from my dear friend Sodoulla in Cyprus. This story is actually about the both of us during my first stint on the island from 1993-1997  as a teenager. (I lived in Cyprus a second time from 2005-2007 after Grad school- yes it can be confusing!) We were both Greek- Cypriot kids who were born in London and whose parents had returned to live in Cyprus for various reasons. We were instant friends when we met in high school, sharing a common misunderstood dark British humour and dry wit as well as many other things. Needless to say she is still one of my best friends to this day even though there are so many miles between us and life is very different from those early days. I was absolutely thrilled when she wanted to contribute to The Grumbling Belly and I am sure you will enjoy this trip down memory lane with us.

Happy Mondays Pasta for Mr. Darcy

Pesto Garlic Cream Pasta

When Leia started her family and friends posts I couldn’t resist reminding her about our Monday night get togethers back in 1996. We were just out of school and I had moved from my parents house on the beach town of Larnaca to the central city of Nicosia for college. This meant I was closer to all my high school friends and in particular, Leia. Although she and I had our fair share of parties and going-out nights, Mondays were strictly reserved for our other two passions: English classics and food.

Much to mine and Leia’s delight the not-so-wonderful Cypriot Broadcast Corporation decided by some miracle (or perhaps someone on the board actually had good taste)  to show  the BBC’s six part series of Pride and Prejudice every Monday night, starring the original Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth, and the under acclaimed Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet.

So I’d get over to Leia’s house a good couple of hours before the show would start and we would raise havoc in her mum’s huge kitchen (has she ever mentioned that her parent’s house in Cyprus is a parsonage that used to be a school? Thus you can imagine the size of each room, not to mention there are separate guest toilets for men and women!) We would chop up the garlic, mushrooms and onions while telling each other our sad love-life updates (or lack thereof!) and of course we’ll never know if we cried because of the onions or because of our tales. Then we would get out the pots and pans  and cook up our amazing signature dish that we were so proud of at the time. For us back then, diets started on Tuesdays…

ingredients

Finally, we would sit glued to the television and eat until bursting point while watching the courageous Elizabeth sticking to her guns and the quiet Mr Darcy falling frustratingly in love with her. If I remember correctly, (I did say this was back in 1996) we would finish off the evening with a quick game of scrabble.

Needless to say the series finished after six weeks but we continued Monday evening pasta for quite a while. I can safely say that it was probably the only time in my life when I actually really looked forward to Mondays and I have my best friend Leia and, of course Mr Darcy, to thank for that.

Now to be totally honest, the recipe for our spinach pasta is a bit foggy (again, 1996) we were young and never really thought about writing it down. Being Cypriots we kind of just “played by ear” (my mum is an excellent Cypriot cook and she doesn’t have a single recipe written down, which I now find extremely frustrating, but I guess I’m like her in a lot of ways).

However the other day knowing I was going to write about it, I tested out our Monday Pasta and this is what I came up with:

Garlic Pesto Cream Pasta
(serves 2)
200g pasta (we used to use cheese tortellini or tagliatelle but use your favourite)
1 bunch of fresh spinach, chopped
1 medium onion (or half a Spanish one), chopped
chopped fresh mushrooms (optional but strongly recommended, quantity is up to you)
2 cloves garlic, chopped or mashed
2 (ok, maybe 3!) heaped tablespoons of good pesto (I now would use homemade as my husband does the best pesto but back then we used store bought)
a drizzle of good olive oil (please don’t substitute with another oil)
250ml fresh cream
half a glass of white wine
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan to grate on top

Gently sweat the onion in a hot pan drizzled with olive oil and then add the mushrooms and garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes, making sure the mushrooms don’t produce too much water.

spinach-going-in

Add the spinach and wine stir until all the spinach is hot and starts to cook down, cover the pan and let the spinach cook until its tender and reduced.

spinach-wilted

Add the pesto, season with salt and pepper; stir well so that everything is covered in pesto. Finally, when the wine is reduced to a thick sauce,

cream-going-in

add the fresh cream and stir again, let it cook and thicken.

finished-sauce

Cook the pasta to your desired tendency and mix well into the sauce, grate cheese on top and serve with garlic bread.

Pesto Garlic Cream Pasta

We strongly recommend sharing this pasta dish with your best friend for added comfort.

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Food and Friends- Halloumi Cheese Muffins

One of the key ideas behind The Grumbling Belly is that food is not just about great flavour and yummy recipes but  that food can be an integral part of community and culture. It brings people together, marks occasions, enriches our personal and communal history, introduces us to different places around the world, and it fuels creativity. I am blessed to know many wonderful people who inspire me to continue this Grumbling Belly mission and I have decided to start inviting them to share their stories and their food with you.

It seems only fitting then that I begin with a submission from the woman who began my journey in the kitchen, my mum. The very first thing she taught me to make was her famous Apple Crumble. We had a Bramley Apple tree in our garden and every season, mum would collect the apples and cook them up for the filling. I would be in charge of the crumble and would sit at the kitchen table, happily working the butter into the flour and sugar to make bread crumbs. I felt so proud of myself when she would present the dessert at our next dinner party and tell everyone I helped make it. She then moved me up to filling Cannelloni shells with her spinach and ricotta mix, and buttering layers of phyllo dough ready for all manner of Greek syrupy desserts. Soon I graduated to wrapping the dolmades filling with grape leaves and then on to stirring the bechamel sauce at its most crucial stage to avoid lumps.  I loved working in the kitchen so much that it didn’t take long for me to start looking up new recipes in Mum’s cookbooks to make with her or by myself.

All these years later and she is still teaching me family recipes and giving me baking/cooking tips. Here is the one she most recently sent me for her Halloumi Cheese Muffins. Mum and Dad have always opened up their home (and their dining table) to bring so many people together and this is one of my fondest memories from my time living with them. Our house was always bustling with guests for Sunday lunches, celebrations, or welcoming out of town visitors. She started making these Halloumi Cheese Muffins as a feature in her great buffet party spreads, or sometimes to help with a charity bake sale. They are  moreish warm yummy delights for any occasion!

Halloumi Cheese Muffins

(Halloumi is a Cypriot cheese that has a very unique texture ensuring it keeps its shape in cooking and baking. However, Mum says if you can’t find halloumi, these are still tasty using all cheddar cheese)

Cheese and Halloumi Muffins

5 eggs
1 cup corn oil
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar)
1 cup grated halloumi
2 1/2 cups self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sultanas
2 tsp dry mint
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180 c (350 F). Whisk eggs well then add the oil and beat until well combined. Mix in milk and sugar. In a separate bowl combine the two cheeses and then add to the egg milk mix. Next, add the flour and baking powder and stir well. Pour in the sultanas and salt and mix until everything is combined. Divide mixture into 24 muffin cases in muffin pans and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden brown.

Chicken Pitta with Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Relish

Pinteresting Monday

Greek Yogurt

It seems that everyone has joined the whole Greek yogurt craze now in the States which is great for me because it was only available at specialty food stores for the first few years I moved here. Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been strained to remove the whey (the lactose/milk sugars) which is why it is thicker and has a unique sour taste. This process means it can be used at high temperatures in cooking, is higher in protein and is easier on the stomach making it perfect for those of us who are lactose intolerant. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean that all yogurt in Greece and Cyprus is strained (or called ‘Greek yogurt’ for that matter!) You can buy both regular and strained yogurt in the supermarket. Strained yogurt can be made with sheep’s milk (more traditionally found in the villages- and my favourite!) or cow’s milk, and is present at every meal like a condiment; especially good with grilled meats and roasted potatoes. Furthermore, you will find it on dessert menus served with chopped walnuts and drizzled honey.

In the states when we say Greek yogurt we are really just referring to the cow’s milk and strained variety . Even then, not all “Greek” yogurts in the States are made equal! A lot of the american brands, I am sad to say, don’t really capture the same thick texture or signature sour flavour which makes strained yogurt so delicious. Fortunately, FAGE (pronounced fa-yeh)

fage

is a Greek dairy manufacturer who has set up shop in the United States due to the increase of demand from Greek settlers. Their more authentic strained yogurt is easily available everywhere, even Walmart! This is the only strained yogurt I really like and it’s the one I recommend for today’s Pinteresting Monday (and any!) recipe; Chicken Pitta with Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Relish.

 I am always a bit dubious about trying a recipe that is supposed to be ‘Greek’ because it will sometimes mean it’s not authentic! And the following recipe, although delicious, is completely unauthentic even in its name as I will shortly explain. However, with a couple of tweaks this is a favourite at our house and definitely worth sharing.

Grilled Chicken (deconstructed) ‘Tzatziki’ from Style at Home by Tracey SyvretTzatziki is a Greek dip made with thick strained yogurt, minced fresh garlic, salted cucumber and dried mint or dill. This recipe is not for Tzatziki but for a cucumber relish without yogurt which is why I have adjusted the name to be more culturally accurate!

Chicken Pitta with yogurt and cucumber relish

For chicken marinade: I skipped this whole section and just bought Lemon Pepper Rotisserie Chicken from the grocery store! Saved me hours and made this an easy weeknight meal.

  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice + 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For cucumber relish: This relish really is flexible. I take out ingredients that either my husband or I don’t like, and substitute the parsley for dried mint.

  • 1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup seeded, finely diced tomato
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 6 tbsp coarsely chopped and pitted black olives
  • 4 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh parsley 
  • 2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tsp fresh lemon juice

Directions
1
 To prepare chicken marinade, whisk all ingredients except chicken breasts together in a bowl. Combine marinade with chicken breasts in a large zip-lock bag, seal and gently shake to evenly distribute marinade over chicken. Place in refrigerator and chill for 2 to 4 hours
Again, I just used rotisserie chicken so I skipped this whole bit and saved myself some time and aggro!

2 Meanwhile, prepare the cucumber relish. Lay cucumber slices in a sieve placed over a bowl and sprinkle with pinch of salt. Leave for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until cucumbers soften and their liquid begins to drain into the bowl. Stir occasionally. This is definitely worth the wait however, if you forget to do this in advance (like I often do) it’s not the end of the world! I just let it drain while cutting up the other veggies and chicken by which point the cucumbers are fine.

3 Combine the tomato, onion, olives, parsley, dill, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Stir in drained cucumbers, then cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. Again- although it makes the relish wonderfully delicious over time, I have skipped this when in a hurry and just enjoyed the leftovers all the more the next day!

4 Grease grill and preheat to medium-high. Remove chicken from zip-lock bag and discard marinade. Grill chicken breasts until cooked through, about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove chicken from grill, let rest for a few minutes and slice thinly on the diagonal. (again I just chopped up rotisserie chicken) Lay chicken slices on top of each pita round and divide relish evenly among them. Garnish with a little extra yogurt and serve.  I ALWAYS serve this with plain Fage yogurt to keep it closer to the Tzatziki idea and because it just tastes awesome! 

Chicken Pitta with yogurt and cucumber relish

What I truly love about this recipe is that it’s like eating a healthy chicken gyro in the middle of the week without any of the guilt but all of the flavour and comfort! Plus it’s really easy and quick with the swap for store bought rotisserie chicken.

Middle Eastern treats- Lahmacun and Muhammara

muhammarra and lahmacun

If you spend even a small amount of time eating food from the countries that border the Mediterranean you will realize how much they all have in common. Greece and Italy love their freshly caught fish with a simple but dazzling splash of pure olive oil and lemon, and delight in their warm and bubbly baked pastas and their delicious salty cheeses. And yet unlike Italy, Greece shares its love of hummus and heavily seasoned meat with its middle eastern neighbours. Of course this phenomenon is not surprising at all when you read about the occupations and migrations of different people groups in the  Mediterranean throughout ancient history.

We have a couple of decent Greek/Middle Eastern restaurants around Waco but there are a few menu items I haven’t seen anywhere and have dearly missed so I decided this weekend was a good time for some nostalgic cooking! The first dish I made is called Lahmacun (pronounced Lah-ma-joun) and is typically an Armenian and Turkish dish although each culture serves it slightly differently by adding a unique variety of pickled or grilled vegetables. It’s a meat (usually lamb or beef, or both) mixed with spices and parsley and then grilled/baked on flat-bread  This recipe came to my family from an Armenian woman and Mum used to make it for us when we were kids.

Lahmacun

The second item I have been missing is originally a Syrian dip called Muhammara (affectionately known to my friends as ‘The Red Dip’) with roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts and pomegranate molasses. We first discovered this when my husband and I lived in Cyprus and visited an amazing restaurant called Syrian Friendship Club. Although the ingredients sound like a strange combination, when I first took a bite, I could not place a single one and was completely baffled. It just tasted delicious and I had no way of figuring out how it was made. When we left Cyprus, a tiny piece of my heart stayed behind in that restaurant with the bright red bowl of heaven! Then, unexpectedly while looking through an Ellie Kreiger cookbook, I came across a recipe for Muhammara and could not contain my excitement. I made a couple of adjustments and was delighted that in some small way, we could relive our Syrian Friendship Club days thousands of miles away. I hope you will try these very simple but delicious recipes and experience the delights of the Middle East in your own kitchens

Muhammara

Lahmacun

1/2 lb of ground beef

1/2 can of crushed tomatoes

1/2 tbsp of tomato paste/puree

Handful of chopped fresh parsley

1/2 tsp of cumin

1/2 tsp of all spice (or just mix ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)

1/2 tsp of ground coriander

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

6 pitta pockets (you can also use large thin flat-bread)

fresh lemon wedges or juice for serving

I like to blend the crushed tomatoes but this is not completely necessary. Mix all the ingredients (minus the bread) in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight. Turn on your broiler (or oven grill) to get nice and hot. Slice open and separate the pitta pockets so you have two thin rounds. Spread a THIN layer of the meat mixture onto each side of the pitta. The surface of the bread should be completely covered. Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the edges are crunchy but not burnt. Repeat with remaining pitta pockets and squirt some fresh lemon juice over top before serving. 

Lahmacun

Muhammara (adapted from Ellie Kreiger’s The Food You Crave)

1/2 cups of wholewheat bread crumbs

1 1/2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp of cumin

1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (optional)

1/2 cup walnuts

1 tbsp lemon juice

18 oz jar of Roasted Red Peppers (drained)

2 tbsp of pomegranate molasses *(see note below)

(*Pomegranate molasses can be found at any middle eastern specialty store but in the event you don’t have one near you, simmer some pomegranate juice on medium heat until it reduces to a syrup- about 1/4 of the volume -and allow to cool. It can last in your fridge for a few weeks if you have extra.)

Muhammara

Toast the walnuts and grind in food processor. Add breadcrumbs and spices and pulse until well combined. (If I don’t have breadcrumbs, I toast a small piece of bread, let it cool and harden and then throw it in with the walnuts.) Add drained peppers, lemon juice, molasses and olive oil and blend until everything is mixed well. Serve with Pitta Chips or warm flat bread.

Mediterranean Etchings

Cyprus haunts my steps. It paints the colour of my skin, twists in my hair, flares in my temper and infuses my strength as a woman. Even before I first visited as a child from London, my ethnicity lay restless in the clouds of the city, warring in silence to reign over my identity. It was constant. You may absorb other cultures and values as you engage in our global community but there are remnants of your ethnicity that stay with you forever (for good and ill!)

A family member recently told me that he believed I was able to live happily in my non-Cypriot marriage because I was not very Greek. I am not sure exactly what ‘being very Greek’ looks like and I am still processing whether I agree with him, BUT one thing I know hands down is that I will never NOT be Greek.  And one of the reasons I know this is because of food! As much as I love Japanese, Indian, Hispanic or Italian etc cuisines, they will not have the same nostalgic effect as when I eat Cypriot flavours. (Even though I am Greek-Cypriot, I say Cypriot flavours because the island’s cuisine has been unquestionably influenced by it’s middle eastern neighbours creating a slightly different culinary character than that of the Greek mainland.) Yes I hate lamb and I don’t like eating olives but it’s more than just single food items. It’s a style of cooking, a seasoning, a mix of ingredients that make up a gastronomic ethnicity. For example, I believe my love of Tappas and all forms of shared eating is directly correlated to my innate bond to Mezes where we bring out mountainous collections of  various dips, prepared vegetables, meats and/or fish, and pass them around the table for several hours, drinking, eating and laughing together. I know this could be passed off as just liking the food my mother made when we were kids but I was blessed with an experimental chef in our kitchen and Mum made all kinds of delicious international dishes from as early as I can remember. But, her koubebia (rice and meat wrapped in grape leaves) or her macaronia tou fornou (pasta baked with ground meat, feta, and bechamel sauce) have a completely different sense of home for me than her wonderful cannelloni or chicken pot pie.

This all became evident to me during our visit to see family in Cambridge this Christmas. We were treated to a full-on Cypriot barbecue/grill-out including the traditional roles of  women indoors preparing the dips, salads and sides, and the men congregating around the Foukou (Cypriot style grill) breathing in the masculine flames of the fire. And what did this afternoon ritual of gender bonding and slow cooking meat produce?

foukou with kebabs

Chicken and Pork Kebabs grilling over hot charcoal with pitta bread absorbing all the smokey goodness

bastourma

Loukanika and Pasturma (Cypriot seasoned sausages)

lamb's heart

lamb’s heart

lamb's heart

yes that’s right, I said lamb’s heart.

the spread

The whole spread of salads, meats and dips. Among some were…

cappari leaves

Kapari (pickled caper leaves)

humous

Humous

tzatziki

and Tzatziki

All photos were taken by my brother, the talented photographer, musician, foodie and IT genius. For more of his work visit Dreamstate Reality.

Chocolate Almond Baklava Rolls- in loving memory of Aunt Ellie

My Aunt Ellie recently passed away. It was rather quick and a shock to all of us when she got sick as we knew her as a very vivacious and lively woman. She was the wife of my dad’s eldest brother, Tony, and they lived in Canada or America throughout my childhood. They would occasionally pass through on their way to Greece/Cyprus, or sometimes he had a conference to attend in England and they would spend more than a few days. I didn’t really know them very well during this time but one thing I always remember is that she had the funniest stories, mostly about crazy things that had happened to her (like greeting a waiter at a reunion thinking he was one of the family, praying aloud for a young person referring to them as ‘he’ only to discover later that ‘he’ was a ‘she’, and many more). I loved that she could laugh at these things and her accounts were extremely entertaining.

Tony and Ellie moved to Cyprus a couple of years before my family did in 1993. I was 15 and finally at an age where my relationship with them began to deepen. One thing I soon learned was that Ellie welcomed everyone into her home with a lot of joy and a full plate of food! Although they moved away the following year, we ended up living in the same town again for about 6 months when I came to the States for my graduate degree in 2002. Every Sunday lunch featured a table full of people she had invited for a delicious meal and a dose of her amazing hospitality. All of my roommates soon loved being invited to Auntie Ellie’s and even when I went alone they would wait eagerly as I came home with several bags of Tupperware packed with leftovers every week. (Greek people always plan food for about 20 more people than they invite and Ellie was no exception!) She and I would have discussions about life and faith, and even though we may not have agreed on everything, and although I would arrive each week to find that she was trying to set me up with whatever single guy from church she could find (without warning me!), I had a lot of fun getting to know her better as a real person and not just ‘some relative that comes to visit.’ I have two very vivid memories of my time with her during this period. The first was when she took me out shopping for 10 hours straight (my feet still hurt thinking about it!), and the second is when she taught me to make her famous baklava rolls. Tony and Ellie moved permanently to Greece in the middle of my first year of grad school. When she passed away this summer, numerous people (around the world!) poured out their happy memories of her cooking and hospitality among many other qualities they admired in her. I only hope I have impacted half the number of people that shared their thoughts after her passing.

I have carried on her baklava legacy by making these rolls for tons of friends throughout the States and have helped teach others how to make them too. It was a little sad making these and writing about this recipe but I hope it will be one that you greatly enjoy.

Ellie’s Baklava

One thing every one should know is that there is no rule to making baklava. Much like eliopita (olive bread), it is primarily based on people’s family recipes. However, the basic formula is always a combination of nuts, sugar, spices, phyllo dough, and syrup (honey or sugar). This is Ellie’s recipe, which uses almonds, and the only change I have made is that I don’t include rose water because it’s an acquired taste and not always popular with non-Greeks.

Recipe

When I made Baklava this week, I decided to try a chocolate version as well as Ellie’s classic, so I have included both below.

(Makes about 40 pieces)

Syrup:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

squirt of lemon juice

Almond Filling:

1 1/2 cup almonds

2/3 cup of sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

1 tbsp water or syrup.

(For Chocolate Baklava: add 1 cup of very dark chocolate chips)

Rolls:

1 box of Phyllo dough (two rolls)

3 sticks of unsalted butter

Yes, there is a lot of butter and sugar in this recipe. This is one dessert that you cannot skimp on and have a great result. However, it does make 40 small rolls, so instead of eating a whole square as with normal Baklava, you can nibble up a couple of pieces. They also keep for a week in the fridge so there is no need to eat them all at once! And, they make great gifts and are perfect for pot lucks.

Method:

Place all syrup ingredients into a small pan, mix well and then put on low heat and gently simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Set aside to cool.

Combine nuts, sugar and spices into food processor and slightly pulse. Do not pulverize the almonds – you just want them to be chopped down a bit. Transfer into a bowl and stir in  water/syrup to help bind the mixture together.

Baklava Fillings

If you are making the chocolate version, pulse the chocolate chips first to break them down a bit and then add the almonds and continue as above. Because of all the sugar in this recipe, it is important to use very dark chocolate. My favourite at the moment is Guittard extra dark. Not only are they delicious, but they care about cocoa farmers and the environment.

Guittard

Melt 1 stick of butter in a microwave safe bowl for 40 seconds. It should be melted but not really hot.

Melted butter

Brush the bottom of your baking pan with butter to prevent sticking during baking. You can spray the bottom if you like, but I find this actually changes the flavour and the bubbling filling that leaks onto the pan makes the baklava stick.

Buttered Pan

Set up your rolling station with your filling and butter bowls on one side, and your sheets of phyllo dough on the other. I like to roll my baklava on a cutting board in the middle.

rolling station

Phyllo dough is rather intimidating. One of the main problems people have is that the very thin sheets tend to dry out if not used swiftly. However, if it gets damp, the sheets will stick together and be impossible to separate. Here are a few tips to help you manage this delicate balance

  • Get good quality phyllo dough (Athens is pretty good and easy to find at major grocery stores)
  • I recommend defrosting the dough overnight in the fridge. I find it tends to get wet on the sides when defrosting at room temperature and this makes it harder to work with.
  • Only open one of the rolled packets at a time.
  • Be gentle. If the sheet tears, don’t panic, you can always ‘glue it’ back together with the butter.
  • Some suggest placing a layer of plastic wrap over the sheets you are not using and then a damp towel on top to help prevent the dough drying out in the air. (Be careful to make sure the dough is completely covered in the plastic wrap so it doesn’t get wet). I have worked often enough with the dough that I find this just slows me down, but if you have never used phyllo before, I recommend trying this method.

Lay out 1 sheet of Phyllo. Using a pastry brush, spread some butter all over. You don’t want the sheet to be saturated, just covered. I usually put on a couple of globs and then spread the butter around, making sure to cover all the edges and corners.

Brushing Butter

Buttered Phyllo Sheet

Lay a second sheet of phyllo over the top and butter again. Spoon a small amount of the filling mixture in a line along the bottom of the sheet. Leave a tiny gap at the edges because the filling will bubble up and expand.

Chocolate Filling

Roll up tightly to the very top

Rolling BaklavaRolling Baklava

and then slice into three sections.

Cut Baklava

Brush the top with more butter and place tightly together on the baking sheet.

Baklava in Pan

It is tempting to skip this step because it means more butter but this serves an important purpose other than amazing flavour. As the rolls sit and you continue to work, they can get dried out, and the butter helps to keep them moist so make sure to lightly coat the edges especially. It also, helps them brown in the oven much like an egg wash.

Brush Corners

Repeat until you are out of filling mixture. Melt more butter as needed, one stick at a time.

Chocolate Filling

If you chose to do both flavours of Baklava, make sure you use two separate pans so chocolate doesn’t leak onto the plain ones.

Almond filling

Make sure they are all tightly snuggled into the pan. This is important to ensure that your edges don’t burn (especially for the chocolate ones).

Baklava Snuggle

Place in the oven at 350 for 50-60 minutes. They should be golden brown. Remove and immediately pour the cold syrup over the top.

Baklava

The syrup needs to be cold and the baklava piping hot so that the syrup is absorbed well without making the baklava soggy.

Chocolate Baklava

Allow to cool and then serve. These keep for a week in a sealed container in the fridge. Just remove the amount to be eaten and bring to room temperature before serving.

Chocolate and Almond Baklava

Pancake Week- Coconut Banana

Continuing with our pancake week, I thought for day two I would share with you the variation that began my recipe experimentation in Cyprus 6 years ago. I absolutely love coconut. I  don’t remember where or when I first tried fresh coconut but I remember instantly loving it. Any dish containing coconut almost always become a favourite.

On our honeymoon in Gatlinburg,Tennessee, we ate at the Pancake Pantry and as soon as I saw coconut banana pancakes, I set the menu aside and knew beyond a doubt what my choice would be when our server approached! They were as incredible and if you are ever staying in the Smokies, I strongly recommend a breakfast stop at the pantry.

I had not really ever made American style pancakes until we got married in 2006 and as I mentioned yesterday, it was only because we got our hands on some Bisquick in Cyprus that I remembered our delicious breakfast in TN (and my general love of pancakes) and decided to begin a new tradition in our home. After the first couple of times making plain ones to secure my pancake making skills, I threw in some banana and coconut and was delighted to be able to relive such a wonderful memory from our honeymoon. Now these, are a much loved staple in our pancake rotation. 

Coconut and Banana Pancakes

Add 1 diced ripe Banana and 1 cup of shredded coconut to any batter mix of your choice. I like the texture provided by the coconut but have used 1 tsp of Coconut extract at times when I don’t have the shredded kind.

These pancakes take you to tropical paradise.