Savoury baklava. The idea of it was irresistible to me, even more so when I read an ingredient list that included sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, fetta, dates and cinnamon. But I needed to make a hearty dinner that would extend to a couple of leftover lunches, so I decided to sub out the rich, salty fetta for firm tofu. Then I figured, why not try veganising the entire thing? I've been wondering how filo fares when it's brushed with oil instead of butter.
The answer is that it fares rather well indeed. I think the flavour's a little different, but no less delicious. I infused the tofu with a little extra flavour by stirring through a little salt and some of the sun-dried tomatoes' marinating oil and didn't miss the cheese one bit. The one ingredient that was surprisingly conspicuous, though, was the almonds. Perhaps my chopping was a little too rough, but they retained much of their crunch and didn't really blend in with the rest of the filling. I suppose I could chop or even grind those almonds a little more finely in future but actually they got me to thinking about pine nuts as a potential replacement. Then I started thinking about preserved lemons instead of the dates, or even dried apricots? Other herbs, other bakeable vegetables... this recipe could serve as a basic outline for dozens of different pies (one of them, most obviously, being spanakopita).
A filo pie needs a salad, and there was one waiting in my new 2010 recipe calendar. Michael's mum Robyn generously hand picked twelve more recipes and made me another calendar for my December birthday and it looks even better than last year's! I was expecting this January mix of rocket, watercress and witlof to be a bitter battle but with the sweetness of the oranges and some richness from the avocado (and pastry!), it was the ideal side. My only blunder was dressed it all right away, meaning the leftover leaves were a little soggy and sad in my lunchbox the next day.
(a veganised version of this recipe on Gourmet Worrier, which itself is adapted from The Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia)
2 red onion, finely sliced into circles
3 cloves garlic, minced
100mL olive oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
200g sun-dried tomatoes, some liquid reserved
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
300g firm tofu
salt, to taste
250g almonds, roughly chopped
10 dates, pitted and finely chopped
~150g filo pastry
Over low heat, gently cook the onions and garlic in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the cinnamon and sugar and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions a caramelised (I gave them at least 10 minutes). Add the sun-dried tomatoes, water and dill, and cook for a further 5 minutes or so, until most of the liquid has evaporated or been absorbed.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Crumble the tofu into a bowl, sprinkle it with a few tablespoons of the sun-dried tomatoes' marinating liquid and season it with salt.
Brush a large rectangular baking dish with some of the remaining olive oil, and set out the filo pastry on a damp teatowel to prevent it from drying out. Layer about five pastry sheets in the bottom of the baking dish, brushing a little olive oil between each layer.
Spread half the tomato-onion mixture over the pastry, then sprinkle over half the almonds, half the dates and half of the tofu. Repeat with five more filo pastry layers, the remaining tomato-onion mixture, almonds, dates and tofu. Top with more oil-brushed pastry and a light splash of water.
Bake the baklava for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Allow it to cool slightly before drizzling it lightly with agave nectar, slicing and serving.
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon castor sugar
1 bunch watercress
1 small head of witlof
3 large oranges, peeled and sliced into segments
1 avocado, sliced into chunks
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegars and sugar. Add the remaining ingredients and gently toss them through the dressing.