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World Breakfasts: Knafeh

Knafeh is a sweet cheese pastry, served with a generous drizzling of sugar syrup. Depending on where you go in the Middle East, the dish has slightly differing recipes and names: kanafah, kunafeh and kunafah being just three of them.

Café’s and home-cooks across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Turkey all enjoy knafeh as a staple food for breakfast or dessert. Many also lay claim to the orgins of the dish. This recipe, however – one that’s true to the original – belongs to Palestine, the country we’re crediting with bringing this piece of cheese-filled goodness to the world!

Knafeh isn’t the healthiest of breakfasts, but you’ll love it!

What you’ll need (serves 12):

For knafeh…

450g shredded phyllo (filo) dough (kataifi)

120g mozzarella, grated

425g ricotta cheese

340g unsalted butter

115g granulated sugar

30g pistachio nuts, chopped, to garnish

 For sugar syrup…

115ml water

225g granulated sugar

1tsp lemon juice

1tsp orange blossom water

1/8 tsp rose water

What you’ll need to do:

1. To make the sugar syrup, put a saucepan over medium-high heat and mix together the sugar and water. Bring to the boil, stirring regularly and set aside to simmer. Add the lemon juice and stir consistently for about 5 minutes to allow the mixture to thicken. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the orange blossom water and rose water and set aside to cool.

2. Pulse the dough in a food processor for about a minute until strands resemble grains of rice and transfer to a mixing bowl.

3. Mix the ricotta and mozzarella together in separate bowl. Pour in the sugar and mix to combine.

4. Put a pan over medium heat and melt the butter. Alternatively, place the butter into a microwaveable cup and heat for 30-45 seconds to melt it that way. Set it aside for a few minutes and remove the foam that has formed on the top before using.

5. Add the butter to mixing bowl that contains the dough and mix well to combine.

6. Pour the buttery mixture into a 10-inch cake tin. Use your hands to compress the dough firmly and evenly across the bottom of the tin.

7. Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°C/Gas 6.

8. Spread the cheese mixture evenly across the dough and smooth the top. Bake for around 30 minutes until the knafeh is golden brown.

9. Transfer the knafeh to a platter and sprinkle on the pistachio nuts. Pour over the syrup, cut into squares and serve. 

Knafeh is a sweet cheese pastry, served with a generous drizzling of sugar syrup. It certainly isn’t the healthiest of breakfasts, but you’ll love it!