Last weekend, my dad took us all out for dinner to a Lebanese restaurant. Lebanese cuisine is mostly flavored with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, fresh herbs and the food is mostly grilled, baked or sauteed in olive oil. One dessert which really caught my attention and my taste buds was ‘Kunafa‘
Kunafa also known as Kanafeh like most desserts has many variations. It is generally made with kataifi shredded dough and stuffed with Nabulsi cheese/ mozzarella and ricotta or cream cheese, walnuts and topped with crushed pistachios and sugar syrup.Another variation is to make it with semolina dough.
I wanted to make Kunafa at home but my husband wanted me to cut down on the calories. So I came up with this version of Kunafa, which was equally tasty. Crunchy crust and softly delicious inside. Plus, it is very easy to make.You can experiment with the fillings.
For the crust:
- 500 g Kataifi ( can be found in Arab/ Middle Eastern Grocery stores)/Vermicelli
- 150 g butter melted ( I used only 100 g)
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon powder
Take a large bowl and gently loosen the kataifi. Pour in the butter and mix well.Sprinkle sugar and the cinnamon and mix again. Keep aside.
For the filling:
- 4 cups milk
- 4 tbsp. corn starch ( diluted in half a cup of milk )
- 4 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp Rose water or Orange blossom water
Heat milk and sugar in a thick bottomed pan/vessel. Gently add diluted corn starch to the milk and stir. make sure there are no lumps. When the milk becomes thick take off heat and add rose water or orange blossom water.
Here, you can experiment with the filling. You can add cream or some condensed milk to make it richer.
Alternative filling:You can crumble ricotta cheese (750 g)or you can use half and half of mozzarella and ricotta.
For the sugar syrup:
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 a tsp. lemon juice
Make sugar syrup with 1 cup of water and 1 1/2 cup of sugar along with lemon juice. Bring to boil, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until it forms a syrupy consistency. Take off heat and leave it to cool.Add a tsp. of Rose water.
How to assemble:
- Preheat the oven to 350º F or 180º C .
- Take a 12 inch cake pan. Add some orange food color to a tablespoon butter and grease the pan well. I suggest you use a spring form pan if available, because it will be easy to unmold.
- Spread half of the kunafa pastry on the pan and press well.
- Spread the filling gently over it.
- Cover it with the remaining pastry
- Bake for 30-40 minutes till golden in color.
- Take out of the oven and pour the sugar syrup while still hot.
- Let it cool. Invert it on a serving plate.
- Decorate with chopped nuts or pistachios.
- Serve warm.
If you have made this dessert in advance, warm it up in the microwave before serving.
I have to add, that I was inspired by my blogger friend Raya Najjar who posted the Cheese Kunafa recipe. My recipe is different from hers but she inspired and encouraged me to try making Kunafa.