Two Saturdays ago, I spent a wonderful day with Maxine, Hannah, and their mother from 9TeaCups, at their incredible orchard. Lydia from LydiaLotusDesigns was also there, and so was the coolest pig ever named Cookie.
In case you do not know 9TeaCups, they are the most beautiful people you can ever meet. Not only do they run a refined sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free bakery, they give back to society and do a lot of supportive work by working with people and their families who are struggling with self-esteem, body image, trauma and mental health. They also run workshops and provide one-to-one support. Please do go check them out!
Although we weren’t able to find many cherries (I’m sure the birds and the caterpillars had something to do with it) we still bonded and conversed deeply about ethical issues (somehow, I kept talking about the movie Okja, because, well, it’s a truly brilliant yet deeply disturbing movie on mass-production and consumption), shared personal stories and memories, thoughts on keeping bees and gave Cookie back-scratches and discussed how she prefers to drink apple juice as opposed to water. Whilst we talked and laughed, we ate the most incredible vegan meal I have ever had. If you follow to 9TeaCups Instagram feed, you’ll know that we ate Middle Eastern and Persian inspired vegan foods, specifically:
Tamarind Okra Khoresh with tamateh polow
Sun dried tomato salad with a tahini coriander sauce
Orange blossom medjool dates
Honestly guys @9TeaCups, I really hope you either write a book with all these recipes in them, or open a restaurant where I will be your most frequent guest. Everything was just so, so incredibly good! Did I mention that I received a homemade elderflower fizz as well? It was simply heavenly to sip, especially on such a hot day.
I also had the opportunity to have a guided tour of their beautiful orchard. It was sincerely a nature paradise, filled with wildlife, bees and butterflies, fruit and nut trees, brambles and everything else in-between. Oh, an a very hungry pig who walked around with us. ?
Although we didn’t get a chance to pick cherries, I went to a local farm shop afterwards to collect some sour cherries to make something delicious to commemorate that lovely day. In essence, this baklava is more like an Arabian-style cherry pie, completely with a lovely citrusy, floral syrup to drench it in. It is my favourite experimental baklawa flavour so far and has been inspired by Turkey’s infamous sour cherry jam (vişne reçeli).
Vanilla, Sour Cherry Baklava with Black Pepper + Orange Blossom Syrup
Cooking time: 2 hours
Makes: 8inch cake tin
1.5kg fresh pitted sour (morello) cherries
600g raw cane sugar (or to taste)
1 1/2tbsp cinnamon, ground
2 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthways
4tsp black pepper, ground
5tbsp lemon juice
300g filo pastry
Begin by make the filling. Pitt the cherries and place in a bowl with the sugar. Mix together and refrigerate overnight.
Next day, place the cherries and sugar into a saucepan along with the cinnamon, vanilla, lemon and black pepper (if you are making traditional vişne reçeli, simply cook the cherries and sugar without the rest of the ingredients). Stirring intermittently, allow the cherries to come to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cook for 15-20 minutes or until the syrup has reduced by half. Take off the heat and pour the cherries and their syrup into a bowl. If you want to keep this filling as a jam instead, simply pour into sterilised, sealable jars. Store in a dark, cool place.
When ready to make the baklawa, separate the cherries from the syrup (keep the syrup to be used in yoghurts, pancakes, waffles, etc.) Melt the ghee. Now, working quickly, cut the filo pastry to size (the filo needs to be covered by a damp cloth when not being handled) and, take one sheet, place in a prepared 8 inch cake tin or a baking tray, brush liberally with the ghee. Place another layer of the filo on top of the bottom layer (cover the rest of the filo with a damp cloth) and brush liberally with ghee and continue until 7 layers have been laid on top. Pour in the cherries and layer the rest of the filo (another 7 layers) on top of this. Pour the last of the ghee over the top layer and brush evenly all over.
Using a knife or a pair of scissors, cut the pastry diagonally into diamonds, or into squares. Place in the oven for 15 minutes before reducing the heat to 170ºC (150ºc fan-assisted) 325ºF and continue to cook for a further 25-30 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Immediately remove from the oven and pour 1/2 the cold syrup all over, ensuring that it seeps into all the cracks and slices. When serving, pour a little syrup on top of each cut slice.
Orange Blossom Syrup
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes: approximately 150ml
1tsp orange blossom water
1/2tbsp lemon juice
150g raw cane sugar
Place the sugar, lemon juice and the water together in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to come to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the orange blossom water. Refrigerator until completely chilled before using.
Thank you for reading.