- 1 x 20cm shallow aluminium pan
- 1 x 25cm shallow aluminium pan (minimum size; can be larger)
- 2 large bowls
- Gas stove essential**
- 250 g Taiba Knafeh Cheese
- 190 g “Kataifi Shredded Pastry”
- 2 heaping tbsp Vegetable Ghee
- 2 tbsp Pistachio roughly ground for decorating
- 2/3 cup White Sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Preparing the cheese
- 1. Use a mandoline slicer to thinly slice the knafeh cheese.
- 2. As the knafeh cheese is brined, it will need to be soaked in water to remove the salt. To do this, place the knafeh cheese in a medium bowl and half fill the bowl in cool tap water (water level should be a good 2-3cm above cheese level). It will need to be soaked for a total of 45 minutes, changing the water at 15 minute intervals (i.e. drain and then cover again with fresh tap water).After the 45 minutes, taste the cheese. You want just a hint of salt left in the cheese. However if it is still too salty, soak again for another 10-15 minutes.Transfer to sieve and allow to drain well while you prepare the pastry.
Preparing the pastry
- 3. The pastry will be a tangle of long threads. Over a large bowl, pull the pastry apart to slightly untangle, and as you do this, with scissors cut into roughly 5cm long threads. It’s not essential for them to be uniform or for all of the pastry to be cut into small threads as the pastry will be matted down into the bottom of the pan. This mainly helps to make the pastry more workable.
- 4. In a small saucepan, melt the vegetable ghee over low heat.
- 5. Pour the ghee over the pastry. Then work the ghee into the pastry first by mixing in with a spoon, then using your hands, rub the ghee into the pastry. Ensure all the pastry has been coated with the ghee.
- 6. Transfer the ghee-covered pastry into the 20cm pan. Spread over the base of the pan and press it down firmly with your hands, making sure to spread it into an even layer across the whole of the pan. Then using the base of a cup, press and flatten the pastry firmly. This step is essential as the pastry will form the crust of the knafeh. If not pressed well the knafeh will crumble when cut into.
- 7. Leaving a centimeter-wide ring from the edge of the pan, cover the pastry with the soaked-and-drained cheese by crumbling over the pastry. Spread evenly, then press it down with your hands lightly.
Preparing the simple syrup
- 8. In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Heat over a low-medium flame until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.
Cooking the knafeh
Note: The knafeh will need to be gently cooked over a low -medium flame on your gas stove for 15 minutes, rotating constantly. Make sure to use a thick oven mitt or oven cloth that is not flammable. Children, make sure you get your parents to do this part!
- To cook the knafeh, place the pan over a low-medium heat. The key to ensure the pastry is evenly cooked is to not place the center of the pan over the flame. Instead, place the pan so that the outer third of the pan is over the flame, then slowly rotate the pan 360 degrees in slow, continuous movement. The pan will get very hot so make sure you have thick oven mitts. Continue to cook it for about 12-15 minutes. As you cook it, the cheese will start to melt. If after about ~7 minutes you don’t see a change, you may need to turn up the flame (only slightly!). You will know the pastry is ready when the pastry along the edges of the pan is golden brown, almost all the cheese has melted, and when a knife edge is tapped into the center of the pan you hear a little crackle or crunch. If you shake the pan the pastry should slightly come away from the edge.
- Once cooked, remove from heat and cover with the larger aluminum pan. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- While the knafeh is resting, gently reheat the sugar syrup on a low flame. This is essential as the syrup must be hot when poured over the knafeh.
- You will now be flipping the knafeh over, so that the cheese is on the bottom and the crust is on top. To do this, with your oven mitts on, place one hand under the bottom pan and your other hand firmly pressing the top pan down. Then with a quick movement, flip them upside down. Rest on a heat proof mat, then gently lift and remove the top pan. If it’s worked, you will now be laughing and smiling as you will see a beautiful round, brown knafeh crust. Well done! If it didn’t work and the knafeh stuck to the top pan, don’t fret, use a table knife to gently release the pastry, and I promise you it is still going to be delicious even if somewhat broken.
- Working quickly, pour the hot syrup evenly over the knafeh. This is not a gentle drizzle! The entire pastry needs to be covered in the syrup.
- Sprinkle the top of the knafeh generously with the roughly ground pistachio.
- With a knafeh knife if you have one, a pastry cutter, or even a pizza cutter, cut the knafeh into quarters for a generous 4 slices. Serve, and enjoy!
Sahha w ‘afiyeh
As we say in Arabic, we wish you health and wellness!