India’s famous desserts have won worldwide acclaim. In addition to positively unapologetic quantities of butter and sugar, the Subcontinent’s sweets feature spices, seasonings and homegrown fruits and nuts that make cookbook author Chetna Makan’s new collection shine.
Crisp, flaky pastry leaves, crunchy cashews and almonds, sticky honey and the zingy blend of tea, fresh ginger, cloves and cardamom — this Asian twist on the famous Mediterranean pastry is easy to make and tastes sumptuous. It’s great with a cup of mint tea in the afternoon.
- Scant 1/2 cup cashew nuts
- Scant 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 9 ounces filo pastry (you will need 10 sheets)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
For the syrup
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 2/3 cups water
- Scant 1/2 cup clear honey
- 4 tea bags
- Seeds from 6 green cardamom pods
- 1 1-inch piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
- 6 cloves
For the baklava
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350ºF), gas mark 4. Grease a 40 centimeter × 30 centimeter (16 inch × 12 inch) shallow baking tin.
Put all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then strain the syrup through a sieve and set aside.
To make the nutty filling, combine the cashews, almonds and ground cardamom in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Gently unfold the filo and cover the sheets with a damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out. Place 1 sheet of filo in the prepared baking tin and brush it all over with melted butter. Repeat twice more so that 3 sheets of buttery pastry are stacked in the baking tin. Sprinkle one third of the nut mixture evenly all over the pastry. Now repeat this layering process twice more, then finish with a single layer of filo pastry and brush this all over with the remaining melted butter.
Using a very sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamond shapes, ensuring that the knife cuts right through the bottom layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and, while still warm, slowly spoon all the syrup evenly over the baklava. It is best to leave the baklava to sit at room temperature overnight before serving, which allows the pastry to absorb all the syrup, making it lovely and moist.