Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Spiced Nut and Date Baklava

Baklava 0021 by Meeta K. Wolff

What’s in a hug?

I am a huggy kind of person. When I like someone or feel affectionate towards them I am the type to smother them liberally with hugs. Having spent a great part of my life in the Middle East, a little hug and three to four kisses on the cheeks as a greeting was a normal thing. My group of friends were from across the globe; Lebanon, Palestine, Iran, France, India, Portugal and so on. We very much melted all our traditions and habits into one big melting pot and took out the best to practice. Thus, the many kisses and hugs upon greeting!

When I moved to Germany some odd 20 years ago, naturally I was not giving up on this tradition. What I did not realize however was that your normal German is a rather reserved species and my extrovert and gregarious greetings often caused them to raise an eyebrow and probably feel slightly awkward. I admit, I reduced the four kisses to just two but it was almost comical the way many of them would freeze as I planted a cheeky kiss on each side with a hint of hug.

Soon however, they warmed up to the idea of hugs and kisses and continued the ritual amongst their own friends. The stiffness eased into a more relaxed attitude and I was often greeted with big smiles and many hugs when I joined my group of friends.

In our often impersonal virtual world I try to continue giving hugs to my dear friends to show them a token of my affection and will end my emails, tweets, chats with “big hugs” or “many kisses and hugs”. And you know what? It does not go unnoticed! The friends I have made over the years are some of the most fabulous people I have met, many of them becoming dear and close friends. I was lucky enough to exchange the virtual “hugs xoxo” to real life hugs with a few of them.

Baklava 0014 by Meeta K. Wolff

Hugs have a way of delivering messages of love, approval, congratulations, sympathy, happiness and bonds people together. The simple gesture of putting your arms around other people and enclosing them in a warm embrace makes them feel good and does wonders to uplift your own spirit. A hug makes a person feel loved and accepted.

Some people are natural “huggers” (like me) while others have to work a little harder to develop the positive affectionate habit. In addition to the “feel good“ factor, according to 10 reasons why we need at least 8 hugs a day hugging actually has health benefits, too.

We know that being hugged creates feelings of acceptance and compassion, but did you know that it actually lowers the blood pressure and slows the heart rate of the individual receiving the hug? Frequent hugging benefits heart health of both the hugger and the individual being hugged.

People both giving and receiving hugs are happier and more relaxed. Those of us who are uptight and stressed are more likely to experience physical symptoms, such as headaches, indigestion and other stress-related illnesses. Hugging is a great stress-reliever, potentially appeasing some of those minor stress-related health issues.

There are so many mental benefits of hugging. Those on the receiving end of affectionate hugs can ward off depression. Anxiety can be somewhat mitigated with a reassuring hug as a compassionate hug can ease grief and loneliness.

We are a hugging household here! I honestly believe that children who receives hugs of affection view the world more positively and are self-confident as they feel reassured and know that they are loved and accepted. There might be greater peace and harmony in the homes of those who hug on a regular basis. It is difficult to maintain a bad mood when you have just been hugged. Seeing your family off with a hug each morning could ensure they have a more positive day.

So, what’s in a hug? I’d say … quite a lot of good stuff.

Baklava 0020 by Meeta K. Wolff

Of course when vibrant Holly Becker created a #bloghug party I was up to embracing it with a huge hug. It’s my kind of party with the simple rules to spread a few hugs across the blog world.

Have you hugged a blogger today?

It will be no surprise to you that I would have a huge list of fabulous blogger friends I would like to hugs but I have been giving those on Twitter through the week so will contain myself here.

You see these three ladies here below? Well they of course do not need any introduction. Jeanne, Jamie and Ilva are three of my cherished friends I totally respect and adore. Luckily I’ve had the pleasure of hugging them a few times in person and I do it on a daily basis virtually. As I leave for London tomorrow, I’ll be certainly hugging Jeanne a few times this weekend. Then in May when we all meet in Ireland there are sure to be a few group #bloghugs happening over the weekend.

Tuscany4

I am also sending a huge #bloghug all the way to Dubai to my dear friend Sally, whom I only met last year and hugged often, but we feel like we know each other so much longer. It’s the kind of friendship where we simply pick up where we left off the last time we hugged.

Sandy and I see each other on a regular basis as she lives just a few kilometers from Weimar. She attended my workshop in Ettersburg last year and since then we have had many sushi lunches, cake and coffee afternoons and hugs together. Soon we will be hosting a sensational creative workshop together. Big #bloghug to you for being a kind and gentle soul.

Many warm #bloghugs also going over to Simone, whom I also met for the first time, after a long virtual friendship, at our first From Plate to Page here in Weimar. Since then we have met a few times and we just click so well. Ours is an unpretentious and easy-going friendship. I love her hearty laugh and she always puts a smile on my face.

I’ve been blogging for seven years now and over the years I’ve made and met quite a few friends through this space and I am forever grateful for the love, the honesty, the loyalty and the support. There are times when there is negativity from the outside, but with such Class A friends in my corner, I always feel like a winner.

#bloghugs, my friends.

What better way to share a few hugs than with the sweet, syrupy and nutty iconic baklava. It is Middle East’s grandest pastry and a visit to any bakery in the vast Middle Eastern countries will have you truly lusting after the large variety piled high on large metal platters.

Apparently it is also an alleged aphrodisiac so … it’ll make a great treat for your Valentine tomorrow!

Make sure you use the freshest nuts you can find as the success of this dish depends on it. Do not skimp on butter as it imparts its flavors into the pastry giving it a richer and moister taste. I also add a few sticky dates to my baklava, which really adds a sensational highlight to the dessert. Use medjool dates, they are the “fruit of paradise” and bring along juicy sweetness for a great flavor.

Recipe: Spiced Nut and Date Baklava

Printable version of recipe here

Baklava 0021 by Meeta K. Wolff

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yields: 30 servings

Ingredients:

  • 450g phyllo pastry
  • 300g mixed nuts, I used cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, finely chopped
  • 100g dates, pitted and finely chopped
  • 170g butter, clarified
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 50g sugar
For the syrup
  • 285g sugar
  • 180ml water
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 135 degrees C.
  2. In a food processor place the nuts, dates, spices and sugar and pulse a few times till the mixture has coarse consistency.
  3. Generously brush a 24x34 cm baking tray with the butter. Layer 8 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with more butter, then spread half of the nut and date mixture over the phyllo.
  4. Place another 4 sheets of phyllo over the mixture, also brushing each sheet with butter. Spread the remaining half of the nut mixture and finally layer the last 12 sheets of pastry, brushing with butter as you layer.
  5. Using a sharp knife, slice the baklava all the way through into diamonds.
  6. Bake the baklava slowly for 2 hours until the top is golden. Pour the cooled syrup (recipe below) as soon as the baklava comes out of the oven. Allow the baklava to cool to room temperature before serving. Baklava will keep in the tray, covered, for 3-4 days.
  7. To make the syrup place all the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over a medium heat.
  8. Reduce the heat and cook the mixture over low heat until mixture becomes syrupy. This should take approximately 10 minutes.
  9. Remove the syrup from the heat and allow to cool completely before using.

Verdict

Baklava 0023 by Meeta K. Wolff

The harmony of the warming spices, crunchy nuts and chewy dates layered between buttery pastry is irresistible on its own but the addition of the sweet syrup flavored with orange blossom water adds a touch of heaven. Sticky, sweet and wonderfully moreish. The perfect foodie hug for my friends, my readers and … my Valentine. Enjoy!

I’m taking off for London early tomorrow and really looking forward to my workshop on Friday and Saturday. We have a full house with delegates coming in from Norway, Germany, Austria, Italy and of course the UK. I just cannot wait to feel the energy and creativity flowing in the 2 days and I am sure there will be a few hugs exchanged during this time as these workshops are very intensive and emotional. London always is always so exciting and I love meeting blogger friends for dinner or cocktails to catch up with them. This time I am really looking forward to seeing Sarah, Jackie, Ren, Giluia, Nithin and Anne to name a few blogger friends I have made through the blog and past workshops. And I am very excited to finally meet my gorgeous hostess Sumayya with whom I am co-hosting the London Workshop. Last but never least I will be reunited with my sister-from-another-mother, Jeanne who as always gives me a free bed when I am in London.

So as you can see I will be hugging a lot of bloggers the next few days and partying wildly for Holly’s #bloghug party. Of course a very special #bloghug goes out to Holly, the organizer of the party too.

To you all ..

xoxo

Have a special Valentine tomorrow and make sure you hug the special people in your life. 

[WORKSHOP NEWS]

LONDON: If you would like to stay tuned to what’s happening during the London workshop you can follow the hashtag #LondonFoto or @MeetaWFLH on Twitter or my photography page on Facebook or catch me posting images on Instagram.

WEIMAR

Weimar2013WorkshopBadge-SIDEBAR-BLACKWe are gearing up for a sensational workshop experience here in Weimar, Germany in March. Registrations have been filling  up fast but we still have a few selected spots left on the workshop. Don not miss it!

Shoot, Style, Craft & Design … the Weimar Food Styling, Photography and Design Workshop at the Landgut Holzdorf
15 - 16 March 2013, Weimar, Germany
Details here.
Registrations now open here.

Be there!

More huggable treats for your friends and Valentine from WFLH:

MatchaPralines06framed2 ChosSponge MacaronsRosewaterRaspberry02framed2
Matcha White Chocolate Pralines with Pistachios Chocolate Espresso Sponge Pudding Macarons - Rosewater and Raspberry


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2012 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

38 comments :

  1. The capacity of being a huggy person depends on the environment where we have grown up and on our personalities. I wish I came from a more loving and demonstrative family...

    Your baklava look divine! A heavenly treat.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Ahh! But Rosa you can break the chain and give hugs to feel good and make others feel good!

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  2. A huge hug to you, Meeta! I still love that picture of you fab four ladies, you changed my life in those few days. Really...
    Good luck with the workshop (I know you two will rock it!) and hope to give you a real life hug soon!

    xoxo

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    1. Denise!! Yes one of my fondest memories for sure. It touches me (as I am sure it does for Ilva, Jamie and Jeanne) when I hear that. :o) Huge hug!

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  3. Coming from a British background, well you know that we are not huggers. When I was in Italy this past winter I adapted quite well to the hug and double kiss but still required my personal space..ha..Enjoy London and all the success to the Fab Four. As for these baklava, I am in.

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    1. LOL! I do respect other people's personal face but sometimes I think the hug overrides that LOL! Thank you for your kind words!

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  4. i hug close friends, especially more tightly if i'm seeing them after a longtime. i wish i came from a huggy family...sadly not.
    you're very warm & affectionate and i've always appreciated that !

    xo,
    shruti

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    1. Thank you Shruti! Hugs are for free .. so give them and feel good!

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  5. A Big Hug to you too dear Meeta, hugs are indeed good for us! You will get a real one in May.

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    1. Looking forward to May and ready with a truckload of hugs for you!

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  6. Me too. I have a habit of having these bursts of affection for someone and just giving them a huge tight hug. When we stayed at a B&B in Ireland, I was so impressed with the warmth of our B&B owner that I gave him a huge hug as we were leaving that I don't think he was expecting! Meeta, we are thinking of spending Xmas in Germany. I have my home listed on HomeExchange.com We would love to see the Christmas Markets. My husband is a tad worried that it might be too frigid cold to travel from market to market and that we should go in fall or spring. With my daughter in college, we are limited at those times but she has this big chunk of time off in Dec./Jan. We are considering Nuremberg. If you have any suggestions...send them my way!

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    1. Sarah! I need to write an email to you with a few ideas etc. But I hope when you do come to Germany you can make time to visit me ... I'll give you a hug!

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  7. LOL - I already told you how taken aback I was by your hugginess when we first met back in November 2009 - like "who is this crazy huggy lady that I hardly know?" Maybe I was letting my German thing hang out at the time ;o) Since then, we've shared laughter and tears and a whole lotta hugs and I can't wait to see you TOMORROW - squeeeeeeal! It is wonderful the friendships that blogging can foster and nurture - I have been wanting to do some sort of bloghug piece for a while now - maybe when things calm down after the workshop :) The baklava looks amazing - I am a total sucker for its nutty, syrupy goodness.

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    1. Oh I remember that look on your face very well ... HAHA! It just made me want to hug you more. Now look at us ... we can hardly get enough! London was awesome my dear sister and I can hardly wait for May!

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  8. What I find extremely weird is leaving a kiss-kiss country like France (one on each cheek whenever you meet someone) and going to a hug country like the US when you not only don't do the cheek kiss thing but there is an awkward half hug when you see someone for the first time after a very long delay (like when I go back once a year or so) and then nothing at all after that if you see the person again. I now automatically lean in to give those kisses! But big hugs are reserved for great friends and all the time. Now if I could only have some baklava. I have actually never made it before!

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    1. I know what you mean. I have sort of integrated the whole thing and depending on who it is they get a big hug or just a hint of one :o)

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  9. Mind blowing photography! Love the mood and the colours here and the way you have utilized the dynamic range of your camera! Hugs to you! :-)

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  10. The baklava looks amazing too! Wish I could have a bite!

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  11. Meeta,
    So nicely written and gorgeous pictures!
    I'm a Hugs kind of person too and feel a void when hugs are not reciprocated.

    Am hooked to the walnut Baklavas we get at a local Mediterranean pastry shop. My relationship with Baklava is always a love-hate one. Just cannot resist one and can drool at the thought of one, but hate the after feeling of stuffing too much and swearing to never eat again. Yet, it continues in an infinite loop!

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    1. Oh i can relate to that infinite loop I am afraid it applies to more than just baklava for me!

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  12. Meeta, you should definitely come over to my family, you'll be smothered in hugs ALL DAY LONG! Adults and children, we hug and kiss so often that others eye us suspiciously:)

    On another note, have you tried baklava using Ghee instead of butter? It gives it a softer inside and crunchier outside. Being a middle eastern myself; I am addicted to baklava in every form.

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    1. I know how affectionate the Egyptians are!! I lived there and loved it! I have to try the ghee tip --- I feel my hips screaming already but hey it sounds divine!

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  13. Having grown up in the US where hugs are the more common greeting but with a French heritage where kisses are the norm I'm now a happy blend of both! So watch out, I'll be giving you a big hug and a kiss on the cheeks if we meet in person one of these days.

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    1. I am taking you up on that Sylvie .. you are on!

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  14. Hugs all round I say! I love hugs! As for your baklava...very creative meeta. Love the combination of spices and nuts. Enjoy London!

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    1. Good to hear that Peter ... you shall be the receiver of hugs when we finally meet!

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  15. So beautiful yummy pictures!love it !
    Antonina

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  16. Oh my god that is droolworthy. I absolutely love Baklava but resist thinking about all the fat content. Sigh I must try this.

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  17. Looks amazing and so delicious. I love the way you decorate the food.

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  18. Beautiful! I'm looking forward to hugging and kissing you in March!!!

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    1. So looking forward to seeing you at the Weimar workshop Bärbel. It should be a lot of fun!

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  19. Hey Meeta,

    i love baklava and its pretty forgiving as you can add any combination of nuts and dried fruits and spices and it still has a different twist to it every time. I loved the props used too..Is that a lovely wooden window??? Pretty Pretty..
    Shobha

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  20. I totally missed this post before. I am a big hugger... kisses I'm ok with but not on the lips (that's reserved for my man). But yeah, a giant hug is always ok. And even better? When it's followed by baklava. Just sayin.

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta