Baklava is one of the most famous of all Middle-Eastern sweets (and is the ancestor of strudel, brought to Hungary by Turkish invaders in the 16th century). Traditionally there were 40 layers of pastry, 20 below and 20 above symbolising the 40 days of Lent. This dessert was classically eaten on Easter Sunday to break the Lenten fast. This recipe is based on a Wickedfood Cooking School recipe from our Middle Eastern cooking class.  Almost any nuts apart from peanuts (which are not really nuts but legumes) can be used, although in the classic recipes, walnuts, pistachios and pecans are the nuts of choice. The shapes also vary greatly from cigars and florets to diamonds.

1 packet filo pastry, thawed
125g butter, melted
2 cups (±200g) nuts, chopped


1¼ cups water
400g sugar
1 T lemon juice
1 T rosew


  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Make the syrup first (see below) and chill.
  2. Choose a baking dish as close to 20cm x 25cm, at least 3cm deep, that you have. Brush it liberally with melted butter and cut the filo pastry sheets to fit the dish (offcuts can also be used for patching).
  3. Divide the sheets into 3. Working with the first third (5-8 sheets), layer them into the baking dish, brushing each sheet with butter.
  4. Spread half the nuts evenly over the pastry and then continue layering the next third pastry, remaining nuts, and then the final third pastry, brushing every sheet with butter – do not butter the top sheet yet.
  5. With a sharp knife, cut the baklava into shapes, through to the base as follows:
    • Parallel with the shortest side ±3cm apart;
    • Diagonally from corner to corner and then again in parallel lines ±3cm apart, to form diamond shapes.
  6. Now brush the top with melted butter.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes at 220°C, then reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for a further 30 minutes or until golden brown.


  1. Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a pot and bring to the boil. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat and boil for 20 minutes, until the syrup is thick.
  2. Stir in the rosewater, remove from the heat and cool. Store in the fridge until required.
  3. Once the baklava are golden brown, remove from the oven and pour over the cooled syrup. Allow to cool completely before removing. Store in an airtight container (Baklava also freeze well if not baked, and can be baked from frozen.)

Serves 6-8.

Wickedfood Cooking School runs cooking classes throughout the year at its purpose-built Johannesburg cooking studio. Cookery classes are run in the mornings and evenings 7 days a week (subject to a minimum of 12 people). The venue is also popular for corporate events and private functions – teambuilding cooking classes, birthdays, kitchen teas, and dinner parties with a difference.

Our cooking lessons are hands-on, where every person gets to participate in the preparation of the dishes. They are also a lot of fun where you not only learn new skills, but get to meet people with similar interests. For corporate groups and team building cooking classes these events are a novel way of creating staff interaction or entertaining clients.