Here is another recipe from my middle-eastern luncheon odyssey a Carrot Baklava from my trusty Maria Elia cookbook. Ever since my brother and his main squeeze ditched animal products, our family has tried to embrace their choice by looking out for super tasty vegetarian and vegan meals that we can all enjoy. This recipe is a great jumping off point – as it turns the baklava tradition on its head for a savoury and surprisingly satisfying dish. Carrots and feta are just the beginning – you can create endless varieties of this meal, as Maria shows on the website with her tomato, date and almond variation. Simply build on a basic vegetable base like carrots, butternut squash, courgette, even broccoli or cauliflower then you’ve got the feta for bulk and flavour, and then you can mix and match with spices and nuts for example cumin goes really nicely with cauliflower, or dill/courgette, cinnamon/butternut squash, and then nuts like walnuts, pecans, pistachio, almonds or pine nuts.
There are things I would change about this recipe, for instance I would have preferred the carrots to have been less cooked through, and though I had serious doubts about the honey drizzled on top – it was a stroke of genius that you should try at least once before you decide it’s just too crazy for your taste buds. It works. As does the overall flavours of dill, feta and carrot and even the cinnamon.
Carrot, dill, almond and feta baklava Recipe
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1kg carrots, peeled, halved and sliced
1 bunch of dill, chopped
3 tsp cinnamon
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
1 packet of filo pastry
100g butter, melted
90g almond, blanched/roasted and crushed
250g feta cheese
4 tbs honey
OVEN at 180C
Saute the onions long & slow till they’re caramelised. Then add carrots, dill, cinnamon, lemon juice and zest and stir for a few minutes.
Add about 1.5 cups of water, season with salt. Simmer until the carrots are tender and the liquid is gone.
In a food processor or with a stick wand, blend a third of the mixture, leaving the remaining amount as is. Mix it all together.
Brush a 20cm x 30cm baking tray with butter and lay a sheet of filo that you’ve cut to size on top, then brush with butter. Do this three times.
Spread half the carrot mixture on the pastry, then half of the almonds and feta. Lay down three more sheets (sandwiched with melted butter) of filo and then top with remaining carrot, almonds and feta and top with a final three layers of buttered filo.
Lightly score the top in a diamond pattern and brush with melted butter and then sprinkle with water.
Bake for about half an hour, or until golden brown.
Let it cool for a little while before you drizzle honey on the top.
Eat at room temperature, or cold.