We as a family love eating at small food joints, hole in the wall places. If it is run by a family, even better. One such place near where we live is a ‘Falafel place’, and it is one of our favorites. They serve standard menu but their falafels are so good, made fresh using the fava beans. I think the cuisine is influenced by Israeli cuisine, they have some nice wall plaques that show the glimpses of Jerusalem. This is where I first tasted Knafeeh.It is by far my most favorite middle eastern dessert. The first time I ate it, I went back twice that week. The third time I decided to talk to the owner and ask for the recipe. He did not quite know the details but gave me enough to start. I read up and here is my recipe.
There are many ways to spell it like Knafee, Kanafeh but those all are the same dish. This dish is eaten as a breakfast as well. How fun must it be to start your day with a yummy dessert for breakfast. I can totally see myself doing that.
The first time I made it, I made it in a big tray. It turned out good but when we started eating it, everyone wanted the crispy part. So next time I decided to try making it a little differently.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1-2 teaspoons rose or orange blossom water
For the knafeh
- 3 cups, or ½ package, of shredded phyllo knafeh dough (kataifi)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup ackawi cheese or fresh mozzarella cheese ( I like to use half and half)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cups whole milk
- 1/3 cup farina (cream of Wheat or Sooji)
- ¼ cup chopped pistachio nuts, for garnish, optional
To make the orange blossom syrup, in a small heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water and lemon juice and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the orange blossom or rose water , pour into a heatproof container and refrigerate to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle position.
The katafeh dough is like thin vermicelli. It comes in a pack which is kept in the freezer. you can use scissors to cut it in tiny pieces or in the food processor, pulse the shredded phyllo dough for about a minute to make it into a fine meal.
Place the phyllo in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until the phyllo is completely coated.
In a muffin pan, add the buttery dough mixture. Compress it very well by pushing it into the bottom of the pan firmly, first with your hands, then pressing with the flat bottom of a cup, or something similar. You can also use a 10-inch clear pie plate or cake pan.
If the ackawi cheese is too salty, soak it in cold water until some of the salt is pulled out. Change the water every 10 minutes or so. This cheese originates from Akki region in Northern Israel. Stored in brine, it can stay good for a long time. Grate the cheese.
Grate the mozzarella cheese.
In a medium heavy saucepan, heat the milk over medium-high heat until it is hot, but not boiling. Add the farina and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture is slightly thickened. Pour the farina over the cheese and stir to combine.
Pour the cheese mixture over the knafeh dough in the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Cover with the remaining knafeh dough.
Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the knafeh is deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes.
Turn the knafeh out onto a platter and drizzle with ¼ cup of orange blossom syrup. If you are using the muffin tins, take the out on a plate and over over the syrup.
Garnish with pistachio nuts. Serve immediately or set aside and reheat before serving. Cut into squares or slices and serve the knafeh warm, with more orange blossom syrup poured over each piece.
It is the most divine thing to eat, when you bite into the crispy outside and find this gooey cheesy filling inside.
Turn the knafeh out onto a platter and drizzle with ¼ cup of orange blossom syrup. Garnish with pistachio nuts. Serve immediately or set aside and reheat before serving. Cut into squares or slices and serve the knafeh warm, with more orange blossom syrup poured over each piece.