Knafeh nabulseyeh by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley | Cheese

Knafeh is a Palestinian institution, made and served throughout the Middle East, and no celebration is complete without it. It is particularly associated with Nablus, where shredded filo pastry is filled with the city’s signature firm, white, salty nabulsi cheese. A filling made only of walnuts and cinnamon is called knafeh Arabiyeh – Arabic Knafeh. Nabulsi cheese is not widely available, so we have used a combination of firm mozzarella and ricotta.

Kaitaifi is a noodle-like cake that loves to be drenched in melted butter, oil, or sugar syrup and develops a wonderfully light crunch when cooked. It’s not the easiest ingredient to find, but it should be stocked in the frozen section of a good Greek, Arabic, or Turkish grocery store.

These are best eaten the day they are drizzled with sugar syrup. However, they can be made up to two days in advance, if you want to go ahead. If you do this, just skip the step where you pour the syrup and then when you’re ready to serve, reheat the knafeh in the oven at 180C fan/gas mark 6. Once they’re piping hot, pour in the syrup. and serve while still warm. Sugar syrup can be made well in advance of use – it keeps in the fridge for weeks. You’ll have a little more syrup than you need here (you’ll make 400ml and use 250ml), but it’s always good to have around for when you need a touch of sweetness.

Makes 15 pieces serves 6-8
kataifi pastry 375g, thawed and roughly crumbled
unsalted butter 200g, melted, plus extra for greasing
mozzarella cheese 1 200g block of the firm type, coarsely grated
ricotta 100 grams
feta cheese 150 g, finely crumbled
powdered sugar 25g
lemon 1, finely grated zest to get 1 teaspoon
sea ​​salt flakes ⅓ teaspoon
orange flower water 1 tsp
pistachio kernels 35g, crushed in the small bowl of a food processor (or finely chopped)

For the sugar syrup
powdered sugar 400g
lemon juice 2 tablespoons
orange flower water 1½ tablespoon

First make the syrup. Put 245ml of water and the sugar in a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and add the lemon juice, stirring the pan frequently until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, add the orange blossom water and reserve until completely cool.

Preheat oven to 175C fan/gas mark 5½. Generously grease the bottom and sides of a baking sheet, about 30cm x 20cm and 4cm high.

Place the dough in a food processor, in 3 to 4 batches, and blend a few times until the strands are about 2cm long. Transfer to a bowl, pour over the butter and mix evenly so that all of the kataifi is coated.

Put the mozzarella, ricotta, feta, sugar, lemon zest, salt and orange blossom water in a separate bowl. Mix to combine and reserve.

Press about two-thirds of the kataifi mixture into the bottom of the baking sheet. Press down fairly firmly – you want it to be as compact as possible. It should rise about 2cm up the sides of the tray. Top evenly with the cheese mixture, spreading very lightly so that the kataifi layer is covered but does not move. Finally, top with the remaining kataifi, pressing firmly to coat any exposed cheese. Even out the top, then cover with a piece of baking paper the size of the pan. Cover with a separate baking dish, about the same size, so that it is compressed. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the plate and parchment paper and bake for another 25 minutes, or until deep golden brown around the edges and golden brown on top.

Run a knife around the edges of the pan and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before flipping onto a platter or cutting board. Slowly drizzle with 250ml of the syrup (the rest can be kept in the fridge for future use), then let sit for 5 minutes for the syrup to absorb. Sprinkle with the pistachios and serve warm, preferably, or at room temperature later.

From Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury, £28)

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