KNAFEH

Knafeh, kunafeh, konafa, spelt various ways is a popular Middle-Eastern dessert. Each country or region has its own variation of fillings and flavours. The Levant is mostly known for their cheesy knafeh, crunchy shredded filo pastry filled with a mild cheese – usually akawi – and once cooked, it is drenched in a sugar syrup that’s lightly perfumed with rose or orange blossom water. At Arabica Bar & Kitchen in Borough Market, we use a mix of halloumi and Akawi cheesei but I have adapted the recipe to mozzarella as its more readily available from supermarkets.

SERVES:

8

PREPARED IN:

Less than 30 minutes

COOKS IN:

Less than 30 minutes

DIFFICULTY:

Not too tricky

INGREDIENTS

For the Knafeh:

250g kataifi pastry

175g ghee

175g mozzarella cheese

For the syrup:

130g sugar

110g water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1½ teaspoon Orange blossom water

1 piece lemon peel

¼ stick cinnamon

To serve:

30g Ground pistachios

Orange zest

METHOD

Egg Set up:

Setup the EGG for DIRECT cooking with the stainless-steel grid. Target Temperature is 170°C. I’d recommend buying an enamelled 4 litre Cast Iron Dutch Oven. They are heavy duty, easy to clean, heat-resistant to 232°C and the lid doubles as a shallow baking dish, which works wonders for this desert.

Getting started:

Coarsely grate the cheese and strain and press out any excess water before using.

Gently warm the butter ghee in a lid of dutch oven until melted. Cut the Kataifi pastry into 1cm strand and mix in a bowl with the ghee, reserving 4 tablespoons for greasing the lid of the dutch oven.

To make the syrup:

Combine the sugar and water, lemon juice, peel and cinnamon stick in the base of the dutch oven and place on the egg. Bring the liquid to the boil, stirring to ensure all the sugar has dissolved. Leave to gently simmer and infuse for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat and perfume with the orange blossom water.

To make the knafeh:

Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved ghee to the lid of the dutch oven, followed by half of the buttered Kataifi pastry. Press down firmly with the back of a spatula, making sure the pastry is evenly distributed across the diameter of the pan. Sprinkle with the unsalted cheese leaving a 1cm border around the outer edge. Finish by evenly sprinkling the remaining Kataifi pastry on top of the cheese and press down firmly with the back of a spatula.

Place prepared knafeh on the egg and cook for 7 minutes at 170°C. Remove the dutch oven lid from the Egg and use a plate to turn out the half cooked Knafeh. Then add the rest of the clarified butter to the dutch oven lid and carefully slide the Knafeh back in on the other side.

Place the knafeh back on the egg and cook for a further 5-6 minutes.

Pour the syrup over the Knafeh. I like to leave the knafeh for a further minute, until the syrup begins to bubble and caramelise the base. Remove the Knafeh from the EGG, generously scattering with ground pistachios and finish with finely zested orange and serve immediately.

Top tip

For a truly authentic taste track down some Akawi Cheese from a well-stocked middle-eastern grocery store. Coarsely grate it and leave it to soak in cold water for 30 minutes, changing the water regularly to remove the salt. Strain and press out the excess water.

Recipe for Big Green Egg by James Walters, self-taught chef and founder of Arabica.

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