Assyrian Baklava

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Baklava is widely associated with Greece, but believe it or not, us Assyrians were the first people to layer nuts with flat bread and honey back in the 8th century B.C. Greek sea merchants discovered this decadent treat as they were traveling to Mesopotamia, and took the recipe back to Athens.

There are as many regional recipes for this delight as there are ways to pronounce it, but this is my family’s version. Passed from my Granny to my mum, who has adapted it and actually worked out the measurements rather than adding a dash or this and pinch or that, this recipe is very close to my heart. So much so in fact that I’m almost reluctant to share it! It’s a taste of home, a taste of my childhood and a taste of my heritage.  Make it with passion and eat it with love.

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Four generations of the Assyrian side of the family. Granny, mum, me and my daughter a few years ago.

You’ll need:
1 packet of filo pastry (6 large sheets)
4oz butter
8oz crushed pistachio nuts (walnuts or almonds work well too)
4oz brown sugar
1 level tsp green cardamom seeds crushed

For the sauce:
2oz dark sugar
2oz honey
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons rose water
1 level tsp crushed green cardamom seeds

Melt the butter. Brush an oblong cake tin with butter before laying one of the filo sheets on top folding any excess back on itself. Brush this with butter and add a second and third brushing each with the butter.

Mix the pistachio nuts, 4oz brown sugar and a teaspoon of crushed cardamom together and sprinkle over the filo sheets. Layer up the remaining filo sheets on top of the nut mixture brushing each with butter as you go, except the top one (brushing it with butter will make it brown too fast when baking).

Cut the baklava into diamonds before baking at 160oC for about 30 minutes.

Whilst it’s baking, make the sauce by heating all the other ingredients in a saucepan until it boils, stiring continuously. Allow it to cool before pouring over the baklava. Enjoy with a cup of coffee.

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5 thoughts on “Assyrian Baklava

    • Hi Alex, hmmm, that’s an interesting question. My first thought is to use a mixture of dried fruit and maybe panko breadcrumbs to give it a bit of bite. Key me know how you get on. I might give it a go myself…. Big love xx

    • I know this was left a long time ago, but why not seeds? Pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) and sunflower seeds both are very “meaty,” like nuts, and behave much the same way. Sesame seeds are popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking, so maybe those could be added, too? Baklava is such a treat, I’d love everyone to be able to try it!

  1. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Our knitting group just lost a dear Assyrian friend and I would love to bring some baklava to share with the group to remember her by, since hers was legendary. I know it won’t be the same, but cooking and baking were so central to her life I can’t think of her without thinking of the tables piled high with trays of baklava, dolma, and a million other treats, the dark black tea and the preserved fruit to go with it. I’ve made baklava before, but I’m so happy to find a good family recipe to try, instead of a mass market one. Josefin cooked like your grandmother, by memory and intuition (my dad did, too – leaving no recipes to help us along after he was gone) and I’m happy and grateful to see recipes like those getting preserved and shared. Thank you so much!

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