An impressive dessert (not as sweet as the classic) with a lovely fresh tang from nectarines – dark fleshed plums would also be lovely. Get this one made the day ahead then you can cross ‘dessert’ off your to-do list.
Syrup and nectarines
1½ cups sugar
2 cups water
2 small strips orange rind
small piece vanilla pod
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons orange flower water
6 nearly ripe nectarines, halved and stoned
1¼ cups ground almonds
½ cup finely chopped fresh walnuts
1 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup caster sugar
75 grams unsalted butter, melted
375 gram packet filo pastry
shallow ovenproof dish, approx 33cm x 21cm, buttered
Syrup: Put the sugar and water in a large heavy-based sauté pan and set over a medium heat. Stir often until the sugar dissolves, but avoid getting sugar crystals up the sides of the pan. Wash off any that form with a little of the hot syrup. Gently bring to the boil without stirring. Add the orange rind and vanilla pod and boil gently for 5 minutes. Remove the rind and pod and stir in the lemon juice and orange flower water.
Place the nectarines in the pan of hot syrup, cut side up. Bring back to the boil and let it bubble up over the nectarines briefly. Reduce the heat and cook gently for 10-15 minutes, until tender. Spoon hot syrup over the fruit frequently.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the nectarines to a plate and cool. Cut into fat slices and set aside.
Spoon off ½ a cup of syrup, cool, cover and reserve. Cover the pan of syrup and set aside.
Preheat oven to 160°C.
Baklava: Put almonds, walnuts and pistachios in a bowl with the cinnamon and sugar.
Lay 1 sheet of filo pastry on a clean dry surface and brush with butter. Don’t worry about brushing right to the edges as the pastry will be trimmed. Lay another sheet on top and continue to butter and stack the filo until you have 6 sheets prepared. Place the filo in the base of the buttered dish. Use sharp scissors to trim the pastry to fit.
Spread over ¼ of the nut filling, then top with 3 sheets of buttered and stacked filo and cover with the second quarter of the nut filling. Top with 3 more buttered and stacked sheets of filo and the third quarter of nut filling. Place the nectarines on top, then top with 3 more buttered and stacked sheets of filo and the last of the nut filling. Butter and stack 6 more sheets of filo and put these on top. Trim the filo to fit as you layer it up.
Use the tip of a small sharp knife to carefully cut the surface of the filo into a diamond pattern. If you want to stop the pastry from curling up you can sprinkle a little water on top. This is optional – I prefer it curling up! Bake for 50-55 minutes until a rich golden colour, top and bottom. Remove from the oven and cool.
To assemble: Once cooled, reheat the syrup remaining in the pan to bubbling, then spoon over the baklava. Leave the baklava to cool completely before slicing into squares for serving with the reserved cooled syrup.