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Knafeh

Dishes Created By


Knafeh, kunafeh, konafa, all different ways of pronouncing one of the most popular desserts in the Middle East. Each country or region will have its own variation of fillings and flavours. The Levant is mostly known for their cheesy knafeh, crunchy shredded filo pastry filled with a mild cheese – usually akawi – and once cooked, it is drenched in the sweetest sugar syrup that’s lightly flavoured with rose or orange blossom water. Egyptians however fill their knafeh with a rich cream and don’t tend to infuse their sugar syrup or filling with any other flavour. We used a 13.5 inch round shallow baking tray but it can easily be halved if you plan to use a smaller tray.

  • Serves Twenty

Ingredients


Sugar Syrup

  • 1 cup of water
  • 2/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon

Knafeh

  • 600g of kataifi, defrosted (shredded pastry, usually found in the frozen section of middle eastern and greek supermarkets)
  • 300g of ricotta cheese (you can go up to 500g if you want a lot of filling. We prefer a creamy centre so we used 500g)
  • 600 ml single cream
  • 1 tbsp of rose water
  • 2 tbsp of cornflour
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 large knob (150g) of unsalted butter, melted
  • 100 ml of vegetable oil

Topping

  • handful of pistachios, chopped
  • handful of walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon

Cooking Instructions


  1. A lot of the elements for the knafeh can be prepared and made in advance so it’s the perfect dessert for dinner parties. I tend to make it the night before and bake it once everyone’s arrived because it’s best served hot from the oven.
  2. For the sugar syrup, put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and leave to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until it’s slightly thickened. Put aside until needed.
  3. Mix the nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon in a pan until it’s all evenly coated and the sugar has melted on the nuts. Be careful to do this on a medium heat as the sugar can burn quite quickly. Set aside until you’ve baked the knafeh.
  4. Shred the kataifi with your hands or scissors. This process takes the longest but it’s worth it. Make sure to get roughly 2 cm sized vermicelli-like strands of the pastry. Mix the melted butter and oil and pour it on the kataifi, making sure it’s all evenly coated.
  5. To make the filling, warm the single cream and mix in the cornflour and caster sugar to thicken it. Keep mixing until the cream really changes in consistency. In order to avoid getting lumps from the cornflour, simply dilute it in a little bit of milk before pouring it into the cream.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with the rose water. Once the cream has cooled slightly, combine it with the ricotta and you’re ready to assemble.
  7. Since you’ve coated your kataifi in lots of butter and oil, there is no need to line your baking tray with any additional butter. Use half of the pastry to fill the bottom of the dish then evenly spoon the filling on top, without touching the edges. Use the remaining kataifi to cover the filling. At this point, you can cover it and leave it overnight in the fridge if you do not plan to bake it and serve it straight away.
  8. To bake it, pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan) and bake it for 30 to 40 minutes, Take it out when the pastry looks golden brown and crunchy. For a13in tray, it takes about 40 minutes in the oven.
  9. Pour 2/3 of the sugar syrup all over the knafeh as soon as you take it out of the oven. Listen to the sound it makes as the syrup touches the bottom of the tray! This makes it slightly less sweet than your typical shop bought knafeh. Leave the remaining sugar syrup on the table for people to add according to their preferences. Sprinkle the nuts all over the knafeh and tuck in.
  10. Sahtein!

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