Recipe: Rolled Baklava by Salwa from ASRC

7 September 2018 Salwa Sharabah

Recipe: Rolled Baklava by Salwa from ASRC

Salwa from ASRC by Sian Findlay

In 2012, the fiery, dirty civil war in Syria caught up with us in Aleppo city. It destroyed our properties, and life became completely unsafe. It forced me to escape with my husband and two daughters to Saudi Arabia. Then, after three years, we arrived in Australia to seek asylum. We love it here: the safety, the lovely country, the multicultural society, and the very friendly people.

As a girl growing up in Syria I developed an early relationship with Middle Eastern food and Syrian sweets. In my country a young girl must help her mother with housework and learn how to make the local food. So I did. I was part of a large family – at my grandmother’s together with my uncles and their wives. My family used to receive a lot of guests during the day and frequently in the evenings for special celebrations and public holidays.

The food I learned to prepare included several kinds of kubba (dumpling), various kebab dishes and a lot of other fatty foods filled with meat. There were several types of sweets, including baklawa (with either pistachio or walnut); kunafa, which is like a cheese danish made with ricotta or other fresh cheese; and qatayef, a sweet dumpling.

According to Syrian tradition, it is not appropriate behaviour to invite relatives and close friends to eat with you outside your home. They should be invited to the house, not to a restaurant.

My family, of course, was part of this heritage so my mother taught me everything about the needs of the house, as her mother did with her and, of course, I do with my own daughters. They are now learning to make several new kinds of sweets and food at home too.

I give you this recipe in gratitude of what Australia has given to me and my family. I stand with an open heart in wishing you all peace, security and stability. We have a proverb in Syria: drop after drop will make a flood. So no matter how small, whatever people are doing, they are helping.

Salwa's Rolled Baklawa


1 lemon, juice only
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cinnamon quill
500g ghee, melted, kept warm
800g pistachios or walnuts
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder (optional)
1 cup rose water
375g Antoniou Thin Filo Pastry (chilled not frozen)
100g cornflour


wooden skewer
large baking tray

Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC. Grease a large baking tray with some melted ghee before placing the tray in the fridge for 10 minutes. To make the sugar syrup, combine the lemon juice, sugar, water and cinnamon quill in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Chop the nuts, but not too finely. If using walnuts add the cinnamon powder to the chopped nuts. If using pistachios omit the cinnamon. Put aside a handful of the chopped nuts to be used as a garnish at the end; and mix remaining nuts with half of the sugar syrup and all of the rose water to create a thick paste.

Place a single sheet of filo on a flat work surface; sprinkle it with a little cornflour before placing a second sheet of filo over the first. The cornflour keeps the layers separate.

Take a skewer and place it across the filo, one-third of the way down. You can roll your filo either horizontally or vertically. Fold the filo over the skewer. Sprinkle a handful of the nut mixture over the filo, leaving a 1cm gap at the top and bottom edges of the pastry. Gently begin rolling filo over the nuts like a cigar until you’ve almost reached the end. Once near the end, brush some ghee along the end of the top sheet of filo and glue this onto the roll. Then repeat with the end of the second sheet. Remove the skewer, and place the roll seam-side down on the cold baking tray. You have just made your first roll of baklawa!

Repeat with remaining filo and nut filling, laying each roll side by side in the baking tray. With a sharp knife cut rolls into 2cm pieces. Pour remaining warm ghee over the baklawa. This will form a layer of ghee at the bottom of the tray but will ensure the baklawa becomes crisp.

Place in oven for 30 minutes or until the filo turns golden. Take it out and pour away the ghee. While hot, brush remaining sugar syrup over the baklawa.

Once cool, sprinkle reserved crushed nuts over each piece of baklawa. It is best eaten at room temperature, and can be stored in an airtight container in the pantry for up to a month.

This article originally appeared in the Love Edition #570 of The Big Issue

Photos by Sian Findlay

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre helped coordinate Salwa’s recipe. For more information on the ASRC, go to