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baklava

μπακλαβάς

baklava

Probably the most famous Greek dessert, although Greece is only the southwesternmost outpost of a great baklava zone stretching from the Balkans deep into Central Asia. There are naturally endless variations across such a wide expanse, but the basics remain the same: layers of pastry and nuts, drenched in syrup. In Greece the baklava should be 33 leaves of fyllo, in memory of the age of Jesus. Walnuts, almonds or pistachios are the favoured nuts, and the syrup should have honey and cinnamon although many prefer a sugar and lemon based syrup.

Students of baklava history believe the original dish of pastry layered with nuts dates back to ancient Assyria, and existed in some form in ancient Greece and Rome. The Romans brought it along to Constantinople, and it was further developed by the Byzantines, only to be later claimed by both Greeks and Turks as their own it spread through the former Ottoman empire and beyond.

In 2006, Cyprus went to the EU to claim protected status for its version, igniting a full out baklava war with Greece and Turkey (which one ardently hopes is the only kind of war they ever have). Historians on all sides presented evidence, and to the chagrin of the Greeks and Cypriots the EU decided in 2013 in favour of Turkey's Gaziantep version with pistachios and semolina cream.

Text © Dana Facaros

Image by Nicole Bratt