CULTURAL FEASTS: An Occasion for Baklava!

What I love about the Mediterranean Diet is that it is a very balanced diet. It’s not extreme in any way and all ingredients are easily accessed and reasonably priced, not to mention nutritious and delicious!

Take for instance this very well known and loved dessert – Baklava. It's made on special occasions such as christenings or name days and always during Greek Easter (well in our home it is!). It’s definitely not an ‘every day’ kind of recipe.

Recently, I had a cooking workshop take place in my kitchen for a group of ladies. I was teaching them how to make some of the recipes in my newly published cookbook, In Sofia’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Flavours Down Under.

Filo pastry is tricky to handle, even for us seasoned cooks, and I wondered how my ladies would go. I am happy to say, they did brilliantly and handled this very fragile pastry with ease. 

Everyone went away from this cooking lesson feeling a lot more confident to try the recipes in the cookbook and in fact, the very next day I received many photos of the recipes that had been attempted by the ladies in their own homes. Made my day to see people overcome their fear of trying something new and just went for it and came out the other end with success!

It’s amazing how the ancient formula of watching how it’s done, partnering together to get it done and then do it yourself never fails! It’s pretty much the way I learnt how to cook myself as a little girl.

My favourite days at school consisted of sport or cooking – I wasn’t too much interested in anything else to be honest…although I did love discovering those Dr Seuss books in the library!

Every Thursday morning, I would eagerly arrive at school bright and early and line up ready to hop on the hired school bus and head to the Sydney County Council to enjoy a couple of hours of cooking demonstrations.

It was what made me come alive – all I could think of was what recipes would be tested today and would I get picked to come to the front and assist the cook. Not only that, we were given a raffle ticket at the door each time and whoever’s ticket was drawn, they received a plate of the goodies cooked on the day.

And no use trying to hold a conversation with me on the bus, the butterflies were so strong in my tummy, I was too nervcited to chat with anyone!

But my day did arrive and they called out my winning ticket! I felt like a million bucks that day – and proudly I went up front and collected my prize…the best day of my little 10-year-old life!

Since then, cooking continued to be my passion and with a few decades under my belt of cooking for family and friends, I knew it was time to branch out and share this love further afield.

It wasn’t going to be an easy task moving to the next level – commitment to this coming alive was huge. Writing a cookbook was huge in itself but getting my head around the social media world – well that’s another story! Thank goodness for my brilliant marketing manager!

Social media may not be one of my strongest points, but connecting with people and getting to know them in real life is! I love our workshops, not only do I get to teach others my favourite recipes, but I get the opportunity to get to know them and do life with them, all around a table full of scrumptious food.

Which takes me back to Baklava!

I grew up eating baklava, alongside many yummy Greek treats and learning how to create this masterpiece came with ease, as I watched how this is made during my childhood years.

And so I had to share the recipe and how to make it with my workshop guests, which I must say, I was really impressed with their skills as I threw a curve ball in the mix and we prepared the baklava a different way, not the traditional way of layer upon layer with the nuts spread throughout.

I saw this method of rolling the baklava on youtube a couple of years ago. I loved it straight away! In my opinion, it was a better way to serve the baklava to a large crowd.

It’s not too tricky either. Firstly, you butter 4 layers of filo and lay them flat on top of each other in front of you. Then using a wooden rod, place it at the top of the filo, lengthways and scoop a handful of the nut mixture along the rod. Once that is completed, start rolling the filo up and over the rod and nut mixture to make a scroll. 

Carefully picking up the filo and rod, press the rod against the side of the tin and scrunch up the filo while pulling out the rod. Once it is snug in the tin, lightly butter it again and repeat. Place in oven to cook for 25-30 minutes and have the syrup ready to pour on top. Let it sit overnight and then serve, cutting scrolls in 3cm lengths. You will get around 40 pieces per tray, perfect for your celebration!

The recipe is in my latest cookbook, In Sofia’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Flavours Down Under – retail price $39.99 and can be purchased online www.insofiaskitchen.com.au/store or Harry Hartog’s Books (Westfield Kotara), MacLeans Books (Hamilton), Sobelle Living (Lambton) or Essential Ingredient (The Junction).

And check out my page for cooking workshops coming up in my home, at Essential Ingredients store or book yourself a mobile workshop where I come to you! Go to – www.insofiaskitchen.com.au/cookingworkshops for options! And there’s even workshops available for preschools and primary schools.