classic syrian knafeh

Golden brown crust of stringy filo pastry?deliciously cheesy and creamy filling to smooth over every bite? Hints of earthy, fragrant rose water syrup and bursts of pistachio crumble?

Of course… knafeh. Need I say more?

Serves: 12


1 x 360g packet chilled Kataifi pastry

250g butter, softened

750g fresh mozzarella cheese [see note below]

375g ricotta cheese

1 tsp vanilla

4 tbsp sugar

For the syrup:

1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/8 tsp citric acid

2 drops concentrated rosewater (or a teaspoon of the bottled stuff)


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Grease a 25 cm (10 inch) spring form, or aluminium pan.

Place the Kataifi pastry in a large bowl and tear to break up the shreds.

Half way through the tearing process, begin to rub butter between your hands, then into the Kataifi pastry.

Continue adding butter and shredding until the pastry is fairly well torn.

Take small handfuls of the pastry and line the bottom of the tray with it. It’s important not to make the bottom layer thick, because it will not crisp up – ask Vic, she knows all about soggy knaafeh.

Note: using a block of fresh mozzarella is better than buying the pre-grated stuff. The pre-grated cheese have anti caking agents in them and the cheesy stretch just won’t be the same. 

Grate the mozzarella into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla.

Stir to combine.

Add the ricotta cheese to the haloumi mixture and stir to combine.

Evenly spread out the cheese filling over the Kataifi base.

Add the remaining buttered Kataifi pastry on top. This layer should be thicker than the bottom layer.

Place the tray in the oven and bake for one hour, or until golden brown.

I wouldn’t advise to bake the knaafeh for more than an hour, if the top hasn’t coloured, place under the broiler for a few minutes.

While the knaafeh bakes, prepare the rosewater syrup.

Add the sugar and water into a non-stick saucepan and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium, add in the citric acid and concentrated rose water.

Gently boil for 3 – 5 minutes, then pour into a milk mug to cool.

Place in the fridge until the knaafeh comes out of the oven.

While the knaafeh is hot (noting that the syrup must be cool), pour over at least half the syrup mixture, and leave the knaafeh to cool slightly.

I prefer to serve the left over syrup and knaafeh together in case people want to add some more.

Garnish with pistachios (sorry I forgot to do that Vic).


… I don’t think I need to tell you who to go to if you want to learn the correct way of devouring knaafeh πŸ˜‰


18 thoughts on “classic syrian knafeh

  1. Charles says:

    Wow, halloumi in a dessert? Nice – I find it so hard though… really solid. How were you able to get it so crumbly to spread it out over the base? I have to try this, with the chips/hummus to begin with too… looks like all my favourite things! Will need to order the halloumi from England though. I’ve never seen it in France πŸ˜₯

  2. Eva says:

    What a beautiful spread, Fati, Vic is certainly very fortunate to have you as a friend. I was first introduced to Kataifi pastry a few years ago when a food stylist used to to coat shrimp with…it was love at first sight. However, I have yet to make anything with it. I love the ingredients of Knaafeh and I am sure I would love the dish!

  3. fati's recipes says:

    Thanks everyone for your sweet comments! It’s been so long since I’ve looked back at my posts and replied to comments… but, hey, the memory of that knaafeh still there!
    Hey Charles, you’ll be amazed what boiling hot water can do to rock-like haloumi.. trust me, you’ll be able to crumb it between your hands so easily! Mine was frozen when I took it out to use it πŸ™‚

  4. mjskit says:

    I have to admit that I’ve never heard of knaafeh. It looks and sounds like my kind of dessert. All of these recipes look fabulous! I’m going to have to go look for those honey BBQ chips. I found your site through Charles and I’m glad I did! I’ll be back.

  5. Hina says:

    Fatima, the Knaafeh looks amazing! I’ve been making Knaafeh with a custard filling, but I bought haloumi cheese just because of you and this recipe! I will try making it soon inshAllah, and I’ll post the results on my blog πŸ™‚

    • fati's recipes says:

      πŸ™‚ I really hope you enjoy the haloumi version. My mum uses shredded mozzarella but she adds a fair bit of vanilla sugar to outdo the saltiness… πŸ™‚ Let me know how you go with it πŸ™‚

  6. myninjanaan says:

    helllooo girlfrienddd! So i made this Kanafeh this past Friday and needless to say we all LOVED it! I only made half though, because there were only a couple of us, but it was amazing nonetheless! I combined your recipe with another one that I’ve been eyeing and the results were phenomenal! In the past I used to make Kanafeh with a custard filling, but after trying your version I am never ever ever going back to that!
    I took some pictures for a blogpost, but because it was getting dark they didn’t come out nice. InshAllah I will make it again in a couple weeks because I’m having friends over who I want to serve this to, so I’ll take better pictures then and make a blogpost about it! πŸ˜€

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