Updated: Jun 26
Knafeh is one of the desserts that people in Israel are willing to stand in long lines or drive far to bakeries in Arabic villages. I’ve read that in Lebanon, people line up for it at 4 in the morning after coming home from the nightclub. It is amazing how much this desert, with origins tracing back hundreds of years to the Palestinian city of Nablus, is still popular in the Levant. Kanafeh consists of layers of shredded filo pastry (called Kataif) and cheese (usually goat cheese), all soaked in sweet syrup and topped with roasted chopped pistachio (stay away from Knafeh with dark-orange topping–it’s food coloring). The contrast between the crispy pastry to the soft cheese is what makes this pan-dessert so rich and tasty.
We fell back in love with Knafeh when we started to host our outdoor dining events and were looking for a quick dessert to cook on the fire. It's best served warm, and you can always assemble it ahead and cook it straight on the grill in front of your guests or indoors, on the stovetop. The syrup can also be cooked ahead and drizzled on top of the hot Knafeh just before serving.
Serves 4 (use 8” skillet)
100 gr Kataif (shredded phyllo dough, store-bought) thawed in the fridge. Or- with your hands, thinly crush 6-8 sheets of filo pastry into small pieces.
50 gr unsalted butter, melted.
100 gr sweet goat cheese, or soft mozzarella cheese.
¼ cup sweettahini's sweet dukkah or toasted pistachios, thinly chopped - for garnish.
For the sweet syrup:
170 gr (1/2 cup) honey, or sugar.
60 ml (1/4 cup) water
1 teaspoon rose water syrup Or lemon juice from ½ lemon.
Make the syrup: Mix the honey/sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook for 20-20 minutes until the mixture is reduced to a thick syrup. Add in the rose water or lemon juice, and set aside.
In a bowl, toss the Kataif and melted butter until all strands are coated with butter and separated.
Transfer the Kataif strands into a hot skillet, and spread them firmly and evenly.
Spread a uniform layer of cheese on top of the Kataif.
Place the skillet on the grill, or on a stove, and cook until the bottom is golden brown.
Flip and transfer to a serving plate and pour the sweet syrup.
Scatter sweettahini's dukkah or pistachios and serve immediately.
You can also bake the Knafeh in a preheated oven to 38 degrees F for 13-17 mins (use an oven-safe dish for that).