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How to make qatayef, an imperial treat from the ancients

These batter, cheese and nut delights pop up in a 10th-century Arabic cookbook.
Qatayif were being made in the Abbassid Caliphate more than a thousand years ago (@bateekh.w.jebneh/Instagram)

Qatayif are delectable pillows of batter, cheese and nuts which date back more than a thousand years to the Abbassid Caliphate, which ruled the Middle East from modern-day Iraq and Iran.

A much-sought after treat, they were mentioned in a cookbook titled Kitab al-Tabikh (Book of Dishes) by ibn Sayyar al Warraq as long ago as the 10th-century . 

These days, qatayef are traditionally prepared by street vendors as well as households in the Levant and Egypt ahead of Ramadan. Once stuffed, they can be placed on a baking tray and then popped into a freezer, lasting for several weeks or longer.


Recipe

Makes: 30-35

Preparation and frying time: 1-2 hours

Dip the qatayef in cold dense syrup once it is baked (@bateekh.w.jebneh/Instagram)

1. Ingredients

The batter

  • 280g (2 cups) flour
  • 170g (1 cup) semolina
  • 2 tbsps baking powder
  • ½ tsp yeast
  • 2 tbsps sugar
  • 875ml (3½ cups) of water
  • 1 tsp salt

The nut filling

  • 60g (½ cup) finely ground walnuts
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon powder
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg powder
  • 50g  (½ cup) unsweetened shredded coconut

The cheese filling

  • 500g unsalted nabulsi or akkawi cheese
  • 50g (½ cup) of ground pistachios
     
Qatayef are traditionally prepared by street vendors (@bateekh.w.jebneh/Instagram)

2. Method

  1. Place all the ingredients needed for the batter in a blender. Blend for approximately 5 mins.
  2. Set the batter to the side. Let it rest for around 10 mins.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over a medium to medium-high heat.
  4. Add 2 tbsps of the batter to the pan to form 3½-inch circles. The batter should spread out on its own.
  5. Cook the pancake on one side only. Bubbles will rise to the surface.
  6. When the top is dry and the bottom is golden, it is  done. Note: Don’t flip them! Remove and set aside.

The nut filling

  1. In a bowl, combine the ingredients needed for the nut filling and mix well.
  2. To stuff the pancakes, hold one  in the palm of your hand. Place about one tbsp of the filling in the middle.
  3. With your other hand, start from one end and pinch the edges together to form half moons. Ensure that they are properly sealed.

The cheese filling

  1. Cut the unsalted akkawi or nabulsi cheese into rectangles, approximately 3cm long and 1cm wide.
  2. Place one rectangle of cheese into the pancake.
  3. Add around 2 tsps of finely ground pistachio on top of the cheese.
  4. Seal the pancake as described in the nut filling steps (above).

Baking

  1. Brush each qatayef on both sides with vegetable oil.
  2. Place on a baking sheet and broil at 260ºC/500ºF if using an electric oven (medium to low heat for a gas oven) for approximately 5-6 mins. Do this on each side or until both sides are golden and crispy.
  3. As soon as it comes out of the oven, dip the qatayef in cold dense syrup for a minute or so, drain the excess and serve.

Marah and In'aam are a mother and daughter of Palestinian origin who have a passion for cooking and telling stories. You can follow Marah and In'aam on their Instagram account @bateekh.w.jebneh

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.