Sophie Grigson’s Middle Eastern Baking Classics – The Bakewell Baking Festival

Grilled Nectarines With Pomegranate Molasses And Thyme
Serves 4

4 nectarines, sliced thickly
3 sprigs thyme
100g caster sugar
1.5 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

Pre-heat the grill thoroughly.

Lay the thyme sprigs on the base of a heat-proof dish or small roasting tin.  Scatter the nectarines on top, then dredge with sugar.

Grill until the sugar is beginning to bubble, then stir.   Replace under the grill, and leave until the nectarines are slightly blackened at the edges.   Stir again and leave to cool.


150g clotted cream
1/2 teaspoon rosewater
½ teaspoon orange flower water
½ teaspoon caster sugar

Mix all the ingredients.

Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake
From Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food
Serves 12

Serve this cake on its own or topped with grilled nectarines and ashtar.

oranges 2 large
eggs 6
caster sugar 250g
baking powder 1 tsp
ground almonds 250g

Wash and boil the oranges whole for 1½ hours or until they are very soft.

When cool enough to handle, cut them open, remove the pips, and puree the oranges, including the peel, in a food processor.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the baking powder and almonds and mix well. Then mix thoroughly with the orange puree and pour into a buttered and floured cake tin – preferably non stick and with a removable base.

Bake at 190C/gas mark 5 for an hour. Let it cool before turning out.

NB I usually use a 20-22 cm cake tin.

Lebanese Spinach & Sumac Pastries/ Spinach Fatayer
Makes 14-15

250g plain flour
½ package quick yeast
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
150 ml water

1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
200g fresh spinach leaves
1 tablespoon sumac
juice of ½ lemon
salt and pepper

More extra virgin olive oil for the baking trays

To make the pastry mix the flour, yeast and salt. Make a well in the centre and spoon in the olive oil. Mix it into the flour, then add enough water to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Knead vigorously for 10 minutes, dusting with flour as needed, until smooth and plump. Return to the bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk – about 1 hour.

Chop the spinach leaves, then mix with the onion and 1 tablespoon salt. Knead and squeeze the mixture. Within seconds, water will start oozing out. Keep going for a minute or two, until the spinach has shrunk radically, and looks just as if it has been cooked. Tip into a fine sieve, squeeze to get rid of as much of the water as possible, then leave to drain.  Just before making up the pastries, mix in sumac and lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 225C/Gas Mark 7. Oil a couple of baking trays generously.   Oil your hands, too. Break off walnut sized pieces of dough.   Roll into a nice ball, then press out to form a thin circle.   Place a scant teaspoon of the filling in the centre of each circle. Fold the edges together on three sides, like a tri-cornered hat, pinching the edges really firmly together.

Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Eat warm or cold.

Serves 12

Sfouf…brilliant sounding name, great cake.   It comes from the Lebanon, where it is the kind of thing that your granny might bake. A mere half teaspoon of turmeric gives the crumb a golden glow, as well as a unique mild aroma.   Even more unexpected is the tahini, used to grease the baking in.   It gives the both base and sides a crispness and subtle sesame scent.

2 tablespoons tahini
300g semolina
250g plain flour
300g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
180g butter, melted and cooled until tepid
300ml milk
1 tablespoon pine nuts

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.  Use the tahini to grease a 25 x 30 cm cake tin, smearing it thickly over base and sides.

Mix semolina, flour, sugar, baking powder and turmeric.  Make a well in the centre and add the butter and half the milk.   Beat the mixture, adding the remaining milk gradually.   Scrape into the cake tin and smooth down lightly.   Scatter pine nuts over the surface.   Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently, and the sides pull away from the tin.   Plunge a skewer into the centre – if it comes out clean, then the cake is cooked.   Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then finish cooling on a wire rack.

Cut into squares or diamonds to serve.


For the filling:
400g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
160g unsalted butter, melted
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons orange-flower water
finely grated zest 1 orange
finely grated zest 1 lemon
60g pistachios, roughly chopped

Filo and Finish:
10 sheets filo pastry (plus a few extra just in case…)
100g unsalted butter, melted
icing sugar
ground cinnamon
30g toasted flaked almonds

To make the filling beat all the ingredients except pistachios together.   Work in the pistachios.   Chill until needed.  Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Now it gets fun.   Brush the first sheet of filo pastry and lay on the work surface in front of you, towards one side of the work surface, narrow side towards you.   Now butter the next sheet and lay that on the work surface, overlapping the first sheet by some 4-5 centimetres.   Repeat with the next 8 sheets.   Spoon the filling mixture in a long sausage shape all the way along the whole stretch of the overlapping sheets, running parallel to the edge nearest you and sitting around 5 centimetres from it.

Now fold the filo over each end of the sausage, then roll up tightly (far easier if there are two of you!)   Carefully, but firmly, coil up like a great big Cumberland sausage, then slide a baking tray underneath.   If a few rips appear here and there, fear not.   Patch with a strip of spare filo, buttering it well and wrapping around the sausage like a bandage.

Brush liberally with more butter, then bake for around 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crisp.   Cool slightly then dust with icing sugar and cinnamon if using, and scatter with toasted almonds.

Sophie Grigson’s Recipes for National Trust Theatre

Sensationally Seasonal:

Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Crab Mayonnaise with Fennel & Cucumber

Braised Pork Chops in Milk

Deliciously Dairy:

Semolina Gnocchi with Sizzling Cheddar and Spinach

Cod with Welsh Rarebit Crust

Avocado Ice Cream with Strawberries

Vietnamese Shaking Beef
Serve with Viceroy IPA
Serves 3-4

500g sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into 2cm cubes
2-3 tablespoons rapeseed oil


2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tablespoon caster sugar


Juice 2 limes
2 green chillis, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce

To serve:

100g of small salad leaves
½ cucumber, cut into batons
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
a handful of soft herb leaves – basil, mint, chives, coriander, dill etc.

Toss the beef with the marinade ingredients.   Mix the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.   Mix together the salad leaves, cucumber and tomatoes and arrange either on a large serving dish or on individual plates.

Heat half the oil over a high heat in a wok or large frying pan.   Add half the beef, spread out to give a single layer, then let it cook for 1 minute without moving.   Now shake the wok from side to side to turn the cubes, then let the beef cook for another minute.   Repeat once more, until the beef is toasty brown on the outside.     Scoop the beef out and straight into the dressing.  Repeat with the remaining meat.    Toss all the meat together, then pile it onto the salad, with all the dressing.   Scatter with herbs, and serve.

Crab Mayonnaise with shaved fennel, cucumber and tarragon
Serve with Traditional Dry Cider
Serves 4

300g white crab meat
100g brown crab meat
1 fennel bulb
1 cucumber
juice 1 lemon
rapeseed oil
salt and pepper

For the tarragon mayonnaise:

Leaves from 2 sprigs tarragon
1 egg
juice ½ lemon
1 tablespoon very hot water
300 ml rapeseed oil

First make the mayonnaise.  Pour boiling water over the tarragon leaves, leave for 1 minute then drain.   Run under the cold tap and press out excess moisture.   Break the egg into the processor and add the tarragon, and salt.   Run the blades and spoon in 1 tablespoon very hot water.   Now add the lemon juice, then keeping the motor running, pour in the rapeseed oil in a steady stream.   Check that the mayonnaise is thick and voluptuous.   If it is still a bit sloppy, turn on the processor again and trickle in a little more oil, until you reach the right consistency.   Now taste and adjust seasonings, adding more lemon juice or salt as needed.   Keep cool until needed.

Now for the cucumber.   Working lengthways, peel off half the skin.  Cut the cucumber in half, lengthways, so that each half has an equal share of skin on, skin off cucumber.   Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon, then slice the cucumber thinly.   Pile into a bowl and sprinkle with salt.   Mix well, massaging the salt into the cucumber.   Set aside.

Trim off the base and the tough stalks of the fennel.   Discard out layer of fennel if it is damaged or looks particularly tough.   Using a mandolin if you have one, slice paper thin.   If not, cut in half and slice as thinly as you possibly can.

When you are ready to serve, drain the cucumber, toss with the fennel, a squeeze or two of lemon juice, a few dashes of rapeseed oil, and a little salt if needed.

Arrange a handsome mound of salad on each plate.  Top with white crab meat, and spoon a dab of brown meat on the side.   Add a socking big spoonful of tarragon mayonnaise, and serve.

Braised Pork Chops cooked in Milk, Italian Style
Serve with Viceroy IPA
Serves 4

4 meaty pork chops
a good knob of butter
a splash of rapeseed oil
1 onion, sliced
6 fresh sage leaves
400-500 ml milk
salt and pepper

Don’t trim any fat off the pork chops!  Pre-heat the oven to 150C/130 Fan/Gas 4.

Heat the butter and rapeseed oil in a heavy based frying pan.   Add the onions and fry gently until golden.   Scoop out of the pan.   Now brown the chops on each side.   Check the pan – if the butter has burnt on the base, then transfer the chops to a clean heavy pan.   If the base is good, then don’t bother – it will taste better for all the delicious brown goo on the base.

Add the onions to the pork, together with the sage leaves, salt and pepper.   Pour in just enough milk to come level with the upper surface of the chops.   Bring up to the boil then transfer to the oven, two thirds covered with a lid.   Leave to cook gently for 1 hour, then check and see how the pork is doing.   Turn the chops over, and add a little more milk if the mixture is looking dry.   Return to the oven for another 45 minutes, until chops are exceedingly tender and the milk has caramelised to a tempting brown.

Life out the chops, and whizz sauce and onions together with a hand-held liquidizer.   Simmer for a few more minutes to thicken, then taste and adjust seasonings.   Serve with the pork chops.


Semolina Gnocchi, with Sizzling Cheddar and Spinach
Serve with Scotney Pale Ale
Serves 6

For the gnocchi:

1 litre milk
250g semolina
50g butter
50g grated Parmesan
1 egg
freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper

To finish:

300g Mature Cheddar, derinded and crumbled or grated
2 handfuls young leaf spinach

Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

Put the milk into a pan and bring up to the boil. Just as it begins to boil, pour in the semolina in a steady stream. Cook for 4-5 minutes, beating constantly to prevent sticking, until the mixture is so thick you can stand the spoon up in it. Draw off the heat and beat in the butter, Parmesan, nutmeg salt and pepper. Finally, beat in the egg.

Pour onto the lined baking trays and spread out in a layer about 1 cm thick. Leave to cool. Chill for an hour or longer until set firmly.

Pre-heat the oven to 190/200C (Fan 170/180, Gas 5/6). Stamp out circles (or cut triangles or diamonds if you prefer) about 4 cm in diameter. Butter an oven proof dish and scatter a handful of spinach leaves over the base. Arrange the circles over the spinach, in overlapping rows, like the tiles on a roof. Sprinkle over the remaining spinach, then the crumbled cheese. Dot with more butter. Bake until golden brown and sizzling (around 20 minutes). Eat hot, with a big green salad,.

Avocado and Lime Ice Cream
Delicious served sweet strawberries
Serve with a sweet fruity cider
Serves 6

2 ripe avocados
finely grated zest and juice of 2-3 limes
1 x 397g can condensed milk
300 ml whipping or double cream, whipped

Peel the avocados and remove the stones.  Mash thoroughly with the lime juice (or whizz to a puree with lime juice in a processor).   Mix with the condensed milk and lime zest.   Fold in the whipped cream, scrape into a container, and slide into the freezer.

Get the ice cream out of the freezer 5-10 minutes before serving.

My Mother’s Halibut (or Cod) with Welsh Rarebit Crust
Serves 4

4 halibut (or cod) steaks weighing about 180-200g
30g unsalted butter, softened
salt and pepper

For the Rarebit Crust:

225g grated mature Cheddar
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
dry breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170C/Gas 5.

Mix the rarebit ingredients together to form a thick paste.   Use the butter to grease a baking dish just large enough to take the halibut steaks.   Arrange the fish in the dish and smear the rarebit mix thickly over each steak.   Bake for around 20 minutes until the fish is just cooked through, and the rarebit is sizzling and browned.  Serve immediately.