Hello, darling Feasties. Have you all recovered from your Easter chocfests? I hope so, because this week on Friday Feast we have even more luscious things to delight you, including a Greek classic, a sexy sheik, and not one but two book giveaways!
But first, the ongoing debacle that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. Can someone please buy me a new putter? Actually, a bit of concentration would probably work if you have any to spare, because I while I seemed to have recovered a little (and it’s a very little) of my ball striking mojo, the same cannot be said for my putting. I am the three-putt queen right now, and it’s a painfully thorny crown. Never mind, I suppose it’s better than dunking balls into the water. Oh. Hang on. I still do that too.
Our guest today is the delightful Annie West, a USA Today best-selling author with a reputation for producing passionate romances set in exotic locations that abound with sassy, smart heroines, hot alpha male heroes, and deeply emotional storylines.
It looks a beauty too. Check it out.
For Sheikh Tariq of Al-Sarath, one miserable marriage was enough. With a kingdom to rule, he has no time—or wish—to find a bride, but his children need a mother.
Could Princess Samira of Jazeer be the answer? Samira has sampled passion, and it left a bad taste. With the knowledge she can’t have the children she’s always wanted, Samira steps into Tariq’s ready-made family. Her only condition? No sex!
Samira thought royal duties and her love for Tariq’s children would fill the hole in her heart, but a craving is building that only the sheikh’s touch can cure…
Doesn’t that sound fabulous? And with Annie you know you’re in the hands of a romance expert. The Sheikh’s Princess Bride is available right now from that most excellent of bookstores Booktopia, also Bookworld and Angus & Robertson. You can also purchase from Bookdepository, amazon.com, amazon.au, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and direct from the publisher Mills & Boon.
Prepare yourselves now, my lovelies, because Annie is a not only an expert romance author, she’s also a seriously good cook and the recipe she’s sharing today is mouthwatering.
What’s better than baking baklava? Eating it, of course!
Cathryn, thanks so much for inviting me to a spot on your coveted Friday Feast. I’m almost ready to claim you’re responsible for my waistline battle, with so many gorgeous goodies featured here, but the truth is I’m too lazy to go and cook them all. The real reason I have to keep an eye on the threat of authorly spread (a danger since I sit and write for a living) is that I love food.
My taste runs most often to savoury treats but I’ve got in the habit of sharing sweets here, and I’m not one to break a food-related habit, so I thought I’d share my tried and true recipe for baklava. I’ve been cooking this (admittedly less frequently in the last few years) since the 80s. You can imagine me, perched on a chair as in infant, dealing with filo pastry… Okay, okay, maybe not an infant, but definitely young!
Why baklava this time? The short answer is because of my Desert Vows duet. First ‘The Sultan’s Harem Bride’ was published in February and this month the sequel, ‘The Sheikh’s Princess Bride’. In both cases I found myself writing about palace life in the Middle East, where gorgeous food delicacies abounded. As I wrote I drooled over memories of sweet Egyptian tea, rich Turkish coffee, delicious vegetable dishes, skewered meats, sweet pastries and so on and so on. That, naturally lead me to my favourite sweet pastry – baklava. Okay, I know it’s Greek but my taste buds ignore that distinction and it’s so closely related to the syrup laden treats from further east that it fits the bill.
So, without further ado, here’s my
500 g filo pastry (refrigerated)
¾ cup melted, unsalted butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped almonds
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
a couple (no more) of whole cloves
a cinnamon stick (about 5 cm)
a thin strip of lemon rind
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
First up, if you’ve never used filo before, make sure it doesn’t dry out. Take 3 clean tea towels. Lay one on a bench then lay the sheets of filo flat on top of it. Lay another tea towel over that. Take the 3rd teatowel and dampen it (but not till it’s sopping wet as wet filo just sticks together) then lay it over all the rest to keep it from drying out. This sounds fiddly but it’s actually quite easy and means the filo is good to work with. When you need a sheet, flip back the top two tea towels, take some and immediately cover again.
Butter the base and sides of an oven dish (mine’s about 5 cm high and 23 by 33 wide and long). It doesn’t have to be exactly this size.
Mix sugar, spices and nuts and put aside.
Take a sheet of filo and brush it with melted butter. (You don’t have to be terribly precise as long as most of it is covered). Then lay the sheet in the oven dish. Repeat this till you’ve got about nine sheets of filo in the dish.
Spread half the nut mixture into the dish.
Add another two sheets of filo (brushing each separately with butter as before) then top with the remaining nuts.
Finish the filo, brushing one sheet at a time and adding to the dish. (If you’ve got a little less than 500g this will still work).
Brush the top sheet in the dish with melted butter and trim any rough edges. Gently score the top layers of pastry in diamond shapes. You can feel when the tip of the knife cuts through to the nut layer and that’s as far as you need to go. Sprinkle lightly with water. This stops the top layers curling.
Bake on centre shelf at 160 degrees for 30 minutes, then move up a shelf and cook another 30 minutes. (Cover with foil if it’s colouring too fast).
When you put the baklava in the oven, make the syrup so it has time to cool by the time the baklava comes out. To make the syrup you add all the ingredients to a heavy based saucepan and stir till the sugar dissolves. Bring to boil and boil for 10 minutes. Cool then remove the cloves, lemon peel and cinnamon stick.
When the baklava comes out of the oven spoon the syrup over it (I love the sizzle of sweet syrup on hot pastry). Then comes the hard part. Don’t eat it yet! Of course you can, but the flavour improves and the syrup is absorbed if you leave it for a couple of hours. Great with coffee or as a dessert. I like to make this when family come to dinner. We all have some, then they take some home and we’ve still got leftovers – not that they last long!
As a huge fan of baklava, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this recipe, Annie. It sounds beautiful and if I get the chance I’m going to attempt a batch next week. Cos one can never have enough nutty sweetness in one’s life. Or romance for that matter.
Speaking of romance goodness, how about a…
We’re so spoiled here on Friday Feast by our guest authors but even more so today because Annie has kindly offered not one, but TWO books to giveaway to two lucky commenters. Yes, book one and two of Annie’s Desert Vow stories. That’s a copy of The Sheikh’s Princess Bride plus The Sultan’s Harem Bride. Two books, two winners.
As always, you’ll have to work a little. I think we’ll go for something a little different this time and ask you to reveal your ultimate exotic romantic setting.
I think mine would have to be Venice. I simply adored that place, probably because we visited in winter when the crowds were at a minimum and at night the streets turned misty and secretive. But I’m sure there are plenty of other places I could choose and thousands more I have yet to see, or even hear about.
So what’s yours? Perhaps you find the bright lights, bustle and excitement of New York romantic. Or maybe an isolated tropical island is more your go. Simply share in the comments and we’ll pop you into the draw to win either The Sheikh’s Princess Bride or The Sultan’s Harem Bride.
Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 14th April 2015. Open internationally. Rah!
This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Debbie and Juanita who have each won a copy of Annie’s new releases, The Sheikh’s Princess Bride and The Sultan’s Harem Bride. Thanks so much to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. What a great line-up of exotic romantic settings. Looks like Annie and I need to organise a writer’s retreat to Greece and Venice, so we can really capture the authenticity of the setting. Ah, one day…