Samarkand, Uzbekistan is an ancient city that truly warrants the ‘melting pot’ tag. Once an important trading centre on the Silk Road, it’s now home to at least seven ethnic groups: Tajiks, Russians, Turks, Jews, Koreans, Caucasians and, obviously, Uzbeks, and it consequently has a really vibrant and diverse food heritage. All of the above inspired travel author Caroline Eden and cookery writer Eleanor Ford to come together to write Samarkand: Recipes and Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus.

In Kazakhstan, market stalls overflow with apples, testament to the region’s love of the fruit. “Stuffed and baked apples are common in both sweet and savoury dishes in Central Asia,” says Ford. “Here, I’ve filled them with the flavours from another favourite sweet that evolved in the region – baklava."

Ingredients

  • 55g walnuts
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 50g honey
  • 40g brown sugar
  • 4 sheets of filo pastry
  • 50g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar 4 cooking apples, peeled and cored

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and butter an ovenproof dish.
  2. Put the walnuts in a food processor and blend to a coarse rubble. Stir in the cinnamon, lemon juice, honey and brown sugar.
  3. Work with one sheet of filo at a time, keeping the rest under a clean, damp tea towel.
  4. Brush a sheet of pastry with melted butter and sprinkle with a teaspoon of the caster sugar. Fold in half to make a square. Sit an apple in the middle of the pastry and spoon one quarter of the filling into the core.
  5. Bring the four corners of pastry up to wrap the apple well, brushing with melted butter as you go.
  6. Brush the surface with melted butter and another sprinkle of sugar. Put seam-side up into the baking dish and repeat with the remaining apples.
  7. Bake for 25–30 minutes, until the pastry shell is golden and the apple inside is tender. Serve warm.

Samarkand by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford; published by Kyle Books