In episode 2 of “Around the World with Manu” I jumped into the kitchen with the knafeh master at one of Dubai’s premiere pastry shops, Qwader al Nabulsi. Their version of knafeh was made with fine strands of kataifi, rather than semolina — and eating this sweet and salty cheese pastry is truly an experience not to be missed!
Serves 16 – 20
- 3 Tbsp ghee, melted
- 250 g kataifi pastry
- 1 Tbsp pine nuts
- 500 g fresh mozzarella cheese
- 500 g haloumi, grated
- 2 cups white sugar
- 250 ml water
- 1 – 2 tsp rose water or orange blossom water, to taste
- dried rose petals, to garnish
- Rinse mozzarella and haloumi to remove any excess salt from the outside. Pat dry then grate both cheeses.
- Place sugar and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium high heat, agitating the pan or stirring with a very clean spoon to ensure sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 – 3 minutes until syrup starts to thicken slightly, watching carefully as you don’t want it to take on any colour. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before stirring through rose or orange blossom water.
- Drizzle 3 Tbsp of the sugar syrup, and all of the ghee, into a 38cm knafeh tin or aluminum pizza tray with a raised edge. Use your hands to whisk the ghee and syrup together in the base of the pan until the mixture turns pale and evenly coats the tray.
- Scatter pine nuts over the ghee mixture and cover well with the kataifi pastry, pressing to fit it into the tin. Scatter over grated cheese, place pan over a medium-low heat and cook for 20 – 25 minutes, until the base is golden and set.
- The trick is to position the tray over the gas hob in the top left or right quarter of the tray (which ever side works best for you in your kitchen), then turn the tray regularly (about every 30 seconds or so) so the pastry crisps but does not burn. The tray will get hot so wear oven mitts or use tongs to turn.
- The cheese will release a little bit of whey on the surface as it melts — dab dry with paper towel or a clean tea towel, then remove pan from heat and invert (cheese-side down) onto a second clean tray.
- Pour remaining sugar syrup over the golden pastry, almost submerging the knafeh, then return pan to the heat and cook for a further 1 – 2 minutes, until cheese is melted and the pastry has soaked up some of the sugar syrup.
- Cut into wedges and serve immediately, scattered with dried rose petals if desired.
Kataifi pastry is a very finely shredded phyllo pastry, usually found in the freezer section. Thaw completely before using for this recipe.
Don’t miss all my destination tips from my time in Dubai!