This is the mother of all celebratory desserts in the Arab world.
Knaf’eh Pastry with Cheese
WHAT YOU NEED:
- 1 package (1 lb) knafe (or “kataife”)pastry, thawed
- 1 cup clarified butter, melted and still hot
- 2 lb Nabulsieh or akkawi cheese, desalted
- ½ lb fresh mozzarella cheese
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
- 2 tablespoons rosewater
- ¼ cup clarified butter
- 4 drops of orange food colouring paste
- 3 cups rose syrup
- 1 cup ground pistachios to garnish
WHAT YOU DO:
- In a food processor begin to grind the pastry, keeping it coarse. Do this in four batches. Place in a large bowl and pour the hot clarified butter on top. Using your hands, rub the butter to coat every strand of pastry. Set aside.
- In a colander, drain the desalted cheese and pat dry with a tea towel. Add the mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle the sugar on top followed by the orange blossom water and rosewater. Mix together well.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Coat a 10-to-12 inch-round baking pan or pie plate with the butter. Add the orange food colouring in the bottom of the pan and use a piece of wax paper to spread the colour and butter all over and up the sides of the pan. Take handfuls of the buttered pastry and press into the prepared pan, going slightly up the sides. Use approximately two-thirds of the pastry mixture. Place the prepared cheese on top, pressing to cover completely.
- Place a couple of paper towels on the cheese to absorb any excess water. Cover the remaining pastry and press gently. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes until the cheese melts and the pastry becomes crisp. Give it a shake – the knafe will come away from the sides in one piece. Remove and invert the hot knafe onto a serving platter with the orange sides on top. Douse with the cooled syrup. Garnish with the ground pistachio nuts. Indulge while it’s hot.