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.

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