I recently did my first ever cooking class – with City East Community College. It was a half day class on “Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cooking” and it was delicious.
My favourite thing we made (apart from Za’atar) was the baklava – who knew it was so easy?!
Made a batch at home the very next day. If you make a batch with half a pack of filo pastry then the other half can be spanakopita for 2-3 people, perfect amounts for me & my fella.
Smash some nuts
1 tablespoon sugar
We used about 1/2 a cup each of pistachios, blanched almonds and walnuts. I imagine you could adjust this to whatever you like. Use a food processor, or a spice grinder like I did to smash this up into coarse sand (or chunkier or smoother if you want).
Set up your pastry station
Smashed nuts (from above)
Half packet filo pastry – covered with a teatowel to keep it from drying out
100 grams or so of melted butter (or vegan alternative – a sweeter oil like macadamia maybe?)
Assemble your souramenos
Work one sheet of filo at a time and make sure the others are covered so they don’t dry out. Brush your sheet with butter – a few lines should do, sprinkle a handful of the crushed nuts then working from one of the long ends scrunch it up so you end up with a long piece of pastry and nuts – folded a bit like a fan. Then work from one end to roll it tightly into a spiral and place this into your baking tin.
Once they are all done bake at 200c for around 20 minutes or until they are starting to colour nicely. Then drizzle over a few tablespoons of water and bake for another 5 minutes – this apparently ensures that the centres are cooked.
While they are baking make the syrup.
2 cups caster sugar
2 cups water
Pieces of lemon and/or orange peel
Few drops of rosewater or orange blossom (can be overpowering so go easy!)
Combine sugar, citrus rind and the water in a pot over medium heat and stir to dissolve sugar, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes, should be syrupy but not caramel. Towards the end add the juice of about half a lemon and some drops of rosewater or orange blossom.
Pull your golden little pastries out of the oven, pour over the syrup and let cool. Then eat them! They are not as sweet as many of the store bought ones, and have a lovely citrus note.
Normally tending towards the vegetarian parts of the menu means slightly healthier restaurant choices – salads and pasta with vegetable, maybe a little cheese for flavour.
Cafe Sopra blows that out of the water. My go to dishes there are so deliriously decadent that they will have you swimming in cream and Gorgonzola dreams for hours after.
To start with you’ll need the fried polenta with mushrooms and Gorgonzola ($20). Share it if you must and get a salad on the side. The crunchy polenta with its smooth interior is nicely swamped in creamy blue cheesy goodness with mushrooms and just enough mouldy bite to keep it interesting.
Then because too much is never enough, you’ll need the Bannoffee Torta ($14.50). You could share this too I suppose. Biscuit base, caramel, bananas and whipped cream and through some amazing alchemy you get this incredible pie. Something so luscious and trashy about it that keeps me coming back again and again.
All the locations for Cafe Sopra are lovely. I tend to frequent Hickson Road for pre-Sydney theatre dining, or Potts Point for neighbourhood loveliness.
81 Macleay Street
16 Hickson Rd