The food of this small country on the Adriatic coast is a mix of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Balkan traditions. Baklava is one of the most popular cookies and is traditionally eaten at Christmas. Baklava can be found everywhere in this region, but these rolls filled with walnuts and raisins soaked in honey are really typical of Montenegro. Cheaper sugar syrup is now often used to pour over the baklava after baking instead. But I soaked my walnut and raisin baklava from Montenegro generously in honey with lemon juice. It gives the rolls a delicious floral, fresh taste. Most Montenegrins are orthodox Christian and celebrate Christmas around January 7, but don’t let that stop you from baking this easy crunchy nut cookie this week for your own Christmas feast. You can store the baklava in a well-sealed tin for at least 5 days. Next week you will find my own Christmas variation with cranberries, pistachios and fragrant Christmas spices. I think there is nothing more festive than a nice selection of crunchy baklava with Christmas coffee so I will probably bake them both!
Walnut and raisin baklava from Montenegro
for ± 20 pieces
250 g (2 cups) walnuts
12 sheets of filo pastry (± 28 x 40 cm / 11 x 16 inch)
125 g (½ cup) butter
100 g (⅔ cup) of golden raisins
juice and grated rind of 1 organic lemon
220 g (⅔ cup) honey
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 170°C / 340°F. Melt the butter.
Finely chop the walnuts.
Grate the yellow skin of the lemon.
Put one sheet of dough on a work surface and brush generously with butter. Place a second sheet of dough on top and also brush with butter. Repeat with a third sheet.
Sprinkle ± ⅓ part of the dough with walnuts, raisins and lemon zest.
Roll up tightly from the short side and cut into five pieces.
Squeeze the lemon and mix with the honey and a pinch of salt in a pan. Bring to a boil and cook on low heat for ± 10 min.
Put the rolls upright in a greased spring form of 18 cm / 7 inches ø. Pour over the rest of the butter and sprinkle with any remaining walnuts.
Bake ± 1 hour on the bottom shelf of the oven.
Increase the oven temperature to 200°C / 400°F. Remove the baklava from the oven, pour the syrup over and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
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