In Albania, New Year festivities are much more important than Christmas ones. Ajosh vasilis (in Greek) or Plaku ivitit Ri (in Albanian), an old man with a white beard, arrives and leaves presents under the children’s pillows.
The ritual is similar to our Christmas – eat lots of sweets, go and visit family, have a big dinner and lots of drink! In the 1960’s all food, but especially fresh food, was very scarce. Liliana still does not know how her father managed to make up a parcel for each of his nine children containing an apple, an orange and nuts. That present was a precious one.
In Albania the baclava would usually be taken to a bakery for cooking but a home oven can also be used. This special New Year special recipe calls for an amazing 16 layers of filo pastry.
These quantities will make enough baclava to fill a large to medium sized baking dish.
- 1 kg of fresh almonds
- 3-4 tablespoons sugar
- Filo (Shop-bought or to make see Spinach and Feta Pie)
- 1 kilo sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons sugar syrup
- Vanilla essence
Crush the almonds and mix with the sugar. Heat the butter gently and use it to brush each layer of filo as laid in the dish. Place two layers of filo in the dish and cover with one layer of crushed almonds; repeat this 8 times. Cook for 1 hour at 200 degrees. Allow the dish to cool completely.
Add a kilo of sugar and a small amount of vanilla to a litre of water; bring to the boil to make syrup. Allow the syrup to cool until warm to the touch and then pour it over the filo and nut layers. While the mixture is cooling sit a pan, or any other heavy object, on top of it to compact the baclava.