How had I not tried this by now? Kanafeh (also spelt as kunafeh, kadayif and many other variations) is a sweet dessert from the Levant. It’s generally agreed to have originated in Palestine, but now many other countries have adapted the recipe by putting their own unique spin on it. The recipe I am presenting to you today is a fairly traditional method, just substituting one ingredient for something more globally available.
It’s the definition of a lavish dessert. Royally crowned with a ring of pistachios, crispy shredded filo pastry encases a melting, oozing, soft cheese. The whole thing is doused in a sugar syrup infused with floral tones while still hot, so every bite is a delicate indulgence.
For a dessert of such luxury, kanafeh uses surprisingly few ingredients with very simple cooking. The pastry can be found at your local Middle Eastern or Turkish store – just ask for shredded filo pastry or kanafeh pastry – and likewise, the blossom waters can be found at any South Asian or Arabic store. Traditionally, a more regional soft cheese is used, but it’s harder to find and a lot saltier, meaning you will have to soak it before preparation. For this recipe it’s much easier to use a cheese like unsalted mozzarella, ricotta, or even a mixture of both.
Because of the “wow” factor of a succulent, gooey inside, it’s great to serve as a centrepiece dessert to guests at a dinner party so everyone can help themselves. Kanafeh can also be a casual treat for smaller families or even individuals; I choose to make two small kanafeh in shallow ramekins which was more than enough for a family of 2, but you could also make a larger one to share.
A real treat made from minimum ingredients.
- 100g Tel Kadayef (Kanafeh pastry; may be called by different names)
- 45g Mozzarella Cheese
- 60g Ghee, or Butter
- ¾ cup Water
- ~100g Brown Sugar
- 4 Cardamon Pods
- 1 tsp Rose Water
- 1 tsp Orange Blossom Water (optional)
- 10 Pistachios
- A few rose petals
- Preheat the oven.
- Prepare your cooking case[s] by greasing the bottom and sides. This means to rub butter or oil over so the pastry doesn’t stick.
- Over a bowl, use your hands to break the pastry into even smaller pieces. You can also use a food processor if desired.
- Melt the ghee (or butter if preferred) and pour it over the pastry. Mix until all of the pastry is coated in ghee.
- Take a liberal spoonful of pastry and spread it over the bottom of the case. Push it down using the spoon so it’s compacted. We want a thick layer, otherwise it won’t crisp up.
- Now shred the mozzarella into pieces and layer it over the pastry. The more the better.
- Add the remaining pastry over the top and again, press down. This layer should be thinner as it will become the bottom.
- Pop into the oven, covered, for about 40 minutes – 1 hr (check at 40, and then every 10 minutes after). While the kanafeh is cooking we can prepare the blossom syrup.
Brown Sugar Rose & Orange Syrup:
- Heat water over a stove on high heat and add the brown sugar.
- Crush open cardamon pods and add to the mix. Now rose water and orange blossom water if using, too.
- Stir until bubbling, and then lower the heat completely so it’s just hot. Cook for 5 more minutes.
- Remove from the heat completely and pour the syrup (minus cardamon pods) into a jar to put in the fridge. Syrup must be cold for later.
- First, as this is a bit time consuming, de-shell and peel pistachios, then chop finely for our garnish.
- When the kanafeh have finished cooking, remove them from the oven and carefully invert them. I do this by first easing a knife around the sides to loosen it. Then I put my serving plate on top, and use an oven glove or tea towel to carefully turn the dish over.
- Ladel 3 tsp of sugar syrup onto the kadayef and allow it to soak. The rest of the syrup can be served to add later to your taste.
- You can now use the pistachio to garnish the kanafeh by sprinkling, or making a ‘crown’. I also added rose petals.
Best served hot for real ooze factor. Kanafeh can be stored in the fridge and then re-heated, but use common sense and caution.