The Red Folder


Red Folder Recipe- Baklava

I think I have found it, the ultimate Baklava recipe

Where I used to live in London there was a thriving greek community and from a corner shop, the owners’ mum would sell tiny, aromatic and sweet, diamond filo pastry mouthfuls of heaven, straight from the baking tin.  I discovered later that the men used to sit at the back drinking black coffee and smoking waiting for the tray to come out of the oven as eagerly as I did.  I used to beg for the recipe and she would always shake her head no and say that if she told me I would not buy from her!  Of course, I know how to make Baklava but I could never capture that taste from London E17.P1110768 (2)

If I see Baklava in a cafe I will always try a piece, I do this with lemon tarts too, but that is another recipe.  Then a friend of a friend of a friend said, “try this”, and handed me a photocopy of a handwritten  list of ingredients and instructions. It is the closest thing I have made so far, so I popped it in the red folder and marked it E17 Baklava.  It is  toothache-sweet, and uses more sugar than I would use in three months, so I usually make a hybrid of the school cookbook version and the E17.  I leave you both here.  Be warned cut into small pieces, but you will keep going back to the tin.


  • 180g walnuts, very finely chopped – some people find them too bitter so mix with almonds
  • 30g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 250g filo pastry about 17 180mm x 180mm squares
  • melted butter, approx 100g
  • 120g honey
  • juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

Heat your oven to 220ºc.  Fan bake  to 200ºc. Lightly grease an 180mm x 180mm square tin.  I only have a loose bottom tin of this size so I line with baking paper. I put the walnuts sugar and cinnamon into my processor to chop and mix but if your walnuts are already chopped just mix these ingredients together.

I use fresh filo so I can freeze what I do not use.  I measure down 180mm and cut through the plastic, wrap up the remaining off cut and put it into the freezer.  I then unfold the pastry that I have left and cut along the other side to give me the pile of square filo layers.  I use the offcut from this to make pastry tops so I wrap and freeze until needed.  You now have double the amount of pastry you need so I usually roughly divide and put one lot in a snap lock bag marked Baklava ready for next time.  Do not put it in the freezer until you have finished and know you do not need it. Phew once that is over with this is too simple.

Brush the bottom of your tin with the melted butter, place a pastry sheet down, brush the pastry sheet with butter, continue until you have 7 sheets of pastry.  Spread a third of the nut mixture and layer another 3 buttered sheets, spread half of the nut mixture then lay another 3 buttered sheets, a final layer of nuts, using what is left then top with 4 layers of buttered pastry.  Do not butter the top, but instead sprinkle cold water on top.

Do not worry if any of the pastry layers get caught or wrinkled just keep on layering.  I loose count too sometimes, it does not matter.

Use a sharp knife to cut through the top of the pastry making 9 squares.  bake in the oven for 15 minutes and then turn down to 170ºc for the next 10-15 minutes.  If it starts to over brown put baking paper on top.

Just before the end of baking mix the lemon juice, honey and zest in a small pan and heat to combine and the honey melted.

When the baklava comes out of the oven, use the guidelines to cut through the layers completely and then pour the honey mixture evenly over the top.  Leave to cool completely.  I then I cut again so you have 18 pieces.  This goes well with a platter of cheese and figs as a finger food or just a sweet treat.


  • 300ml water
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • approx 400g filo pastry
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp rosewater
  • 2 tbsp orange blossom water
  • 350g pistachios, very finely chopped – as they are so expensive I usually mix with walnuts
  • melted unsalted butter, approx 125g

Make the syrup first this time.  Put the water, sugar and lemon juice into a pan and bring to the boil.  Keep it boiling for about 10 minutes.  Take if off the heat and add the rose and orange waters.  stir once and set aside to cool. to room temp at least.  You can put it in the fridge if you like too.

Heat your oven to   Fan bake  to 180ºc. Lightly grease a 230mm x 230mm  tin.  I put the nuts  and cinnamon into my processor to chop and mix but if your nuts are already chopped just mix these ingredients together.



P1110922 (2)
Something wonderfull happens when you mix filo pastry with nuts, sugar and lemon

Now simply repeat the above steps but this time divide you filo pastry evenly in half.  layer one half on the bottom of the tin so the pastry so goes up the sides of the tin. Add all the nut mixture then top with the remaining pastry.  Cut into 16 pieces.   Bake for 30 minutes, again watching that the top does not get too brown and as soon as it comes out of the oven evenly pour over half the sugar syrup mixture.  Leave it and when you see it has been absorbed tip the rest over.  Leave to cool completely before you attempt to take out of the tin.  I grate orange zest over the top too.



6 thoughts on “The Red Folder

  1. I love baklava but it’s hard to find good baklava here in New Zealand. I love a faint rosewater fragrance, not so much it overpowers the rest. If I see baklava here, I make a mental assessment as to who made it, if the maker looks like they are proud of their baklava I’ll try some. Thanks for sharing the story behind your love for baklava, even though it’s not the actual London E17 recipe, it must be satisfying finding something similar for now until you can get back there.

    This post would make a great submission to Our Growing Edge, which is a link up party for new food adventures. This month’s theme is “Nostalgia”. More info here:


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