This is a simplified version of a traditional baklava and the beautiful roasted dates can be used to accompany cakes, top a rice pudding, to fill a sweet tart or just serve with mascarpone and slices of fresh orange.
12 large fresh dates, halved and pitted
1 cup marsala wine
½ cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 long strips lemon peel
1 cup walnuts, toasted
3 tablespoons brown sugar
finely grated zest 1 orange
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon each ground cloves and cardamom
To assemble and serve
6 sheets filo pastry
melted butter, for brushing pastry
mascarpone and finely chopped pistachios or walnuts
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan bake.
Dates: Place the dates cut-side down in a single layer in an ovenproof baking dish.
Put all the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour over the dates and bake for 12 minutes. Let the dates cool for 10 minutes, then carefully lift out, letting any syrup drip back into the dish, and place on a plate to cool.
Tip the syrup back into the saucepan, discard the cinnamon stick and peel, then boil until reduced and there are bubbles covering the surface of the syrup, about 10 minutes. Cool. Syrup will thicken on cooling.
Filling: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well chopped but not totally fine, otherwise it will be oily.
To assemble: Lay one sheet of filo on the bench. Brush with butter and sprinkle with ¼ cup of the filling. Repeat layering with the filo, butter and filling, finishing the top sheet just with butter.
Cut into 12 even rectangles, then stack 2 rectangles on top of one another. You should have 6 stacks. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 12–15 minutes until golden and crisp. Cool.
To assemble: Place the baklava on plates and top with dollops of mascarpone. Arrange 4 date halves on top and drizzle over the marsala syrup. Scatter over the pistachios and serve immediately. Serves 6.