A Syrian, a Turk, a Cypriot and a Greek chef were disputing who invented the scrumptious baklava and each one of them had their own version of its origins.
Baklava is served at Easter time in Parnassus as a festive sweet. I have eaten the mini Baklavadakia in Beirut; I have eaten Baklava in Istanbul. I have tasted Baklava with sesame seeds, with pistachio nuts, with mixed nuts, with dried fruits, with walnuts, with almonds. Even the pastry and the syrup can change from country to country and culinary culture.
The pastry can be the filo we know here that is paper thin, it can be home made by the home cook who will roll it out with a broom stick or a curtain rod as a rolling pin- in the same way a Pita is rolled out. The filo can be what is loosely called horiatiko (provincial), which can be any kind of filo one prefers. The syrup can also vary in flavour from country to country. It can be just sugar and water or it can be with honey, can have lemon in it, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and any other spice. So who can claim the baklava as theirs? There is no doubt that the name baklava is derived from the Arabic and all over the Middle East we will find many different versions of baklava.
Searching the tefteria as our Turkish neighbours would say and as my father would have said, meaning “notebook”, I come across the defterion as our Greek predecessors would have said. Or the kitapia as our Arab neighbours would say and how many times have I heard that word, kitapia.
As you can see even the languages mingle, let alone the food. I have this terrible habit of digressing, back to the note book and my finds. In my tefteri on ancient Greek food, I find a sweet called kapton that is made up of three very fine pastry layers intermingled with mixed nuts and dried fruit. But not pistachios, which by the way were introduced to Egina much later in history and therefore in Greece today they are known as fistiki Eginis (peanut of Egina). The syrup of this sweet was made from the juice of figs, the fig being a very common fruit in ancient Greece.
The fig syrup was boiled with sweet wine. This sweet was widely known in ancient Greece and in Byzantium and curiously reminds us of another version of baklava. So if our neighbours took it upon themselves to create other versions and in some cases maybe refined the baklava, this is good for all of us as we all benefit by sharing many different and amazing versions of Baklava.
These days nearly all these versions can be found in most of Greece and of course in our very multicultural Australia.