Whenever I think of baklava, my mind always turns to my father and his brother, my uncle Nikos. They are two of the four siblings that always used to work together and spend most of their time with each other. My father and uncle would see new opportunities, start and finish projects and collaborate very well together.
My father was always the one who came up with bright, new startling ideas. My uncle Nikos, always loyal to his brother, gave him the base and the courage for the new ambitions and adventures that came to his mind.
My uncle is now 88 years old and my father 84. Nikos his hobby is collecting olives and going for fishing. His nature is exactly the opposite of my fathers, who is more impulsive, energetic, bold, chaotic and hard with himself and others. My uncle on the other hand is more organized, moderate and always low-key!
Katerina father (left), uncle Nikos (right)
Home made baklava
In the sixties they started a tavern called Cyprus in Poros-town, next to the local school. After they closed it, they continued with a new challenge in their freshly acquired quarry: blasting rocks from the mountain. The environmental law changed and they also had to close their quarry. Both of them never gave it a second thought. They picked up their old jobs by starting a second tavern and named it Spiros (my dad’s name), which exists till this day.
When they started their second tavern in the seventies, they decided to sell home made baklava once more, as they had done successfully for their previous tavern. From the oldest memories I have – from both restaurants – is that of my father and uncle making baklava together and simultaneously always disagreeing on how to make it and more importantly, how to cut it.
How to cut baklava
My uncle, being his organized self, methodically and accurately measured his cuts so all pieces were equal in size. When my father cut the baklava, being more impulsive and having a thousand other things on his mind, most pieces were quite different in size. This always caused my uncle Nikos to laugh ironically at the unequal pieces that my father had cut. Their disagreements in the kitchen still linger in my memories.
Looking back I’d say that it does not play such an important role whether the pieces of baklava are perfectly cut, however feel free to do so if you prefer. Being a true daughter of my father, I have never measured the pieces myself either, I would just cut them. What really is important is the taste of baklava, and the recipe from my father and his brother is nothing but the best.
Now I challenge you to make your own baklava! Let’s get started: melt the butter and use a little in order to lightly grease a baking pan. Take one sheet of pastry to line the baking pan and cover the remaining sheets with a damp tea towel. Brush the sheet you used to line the pan with a little melted butter. Repeat this with half of the pastry sheets.
Prepare the filling: put the walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cloves in a bowl and mix well. Sprinkle the filling over the sheets and top with the remaining pastry sheets, brushing each one with a little melted butter and tucking down the edges.
When you have added the last sheet, use a sharp knife to cut the layers of the pastry into diamond or square shapes.
Bake the baklava in the oven until golden brown. Leave it to cool and prepare the honey syrup. When the pastry is cooled, remove it from the oven and evenly pour the honey syrup over the pastry. Leave it to cool once more, while the pastry will absorb all of the syrup.
Before you serve the baklava, re-cut it along the lines you cut before baking to divide the pieces. Now it’s time to taste this divine dessert! I like to eat my baklava in Odyssey’s patio with a lovely cup of tea. Who knows you might join me there someday, and we will eat the baklava you made in my cooking class!