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How to make a three-cheese kunafa | Dine & Discover

Join us in a new video series as we learn about some of the region's famed dishes
There's always a good excuse to have kunafa: weddings, birthdays, or just because you're craving something sweet (MEE)

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Hello. I'm Dina Macki. Welcome to the final episode of Dine & Discover.

Over the last few weeks, I have taken you through a series of recipes famed across the MENA region that you can easily recreate in your own homes. 

This week's recipe is the dessert of all Middle Eastern desserts. Although it is said to have originated in the Palestinian city of Nablus, throughout the Arab world this dish is king.

Traditional "Nabulsi" kunafa calls for a cheese called akkawi, which is very salty and requires soaking before rinsing out the salt. Since this can be a tedious process - and high-quality akkawi isn't always easy to find - I've adapted the recipe a little.

Here, crispy golden shredded filo meets three types of gooey piping-hot melted cheese, stirred into a rich semolina cream and finished off with a dollop of syrup.

While it can be made on one large plate to serve a whole dinner table, there is nothing wrong with making mini kunafas to freeze and indulge in when you feel the urge. There is no right or wrong regarding which flavours you choose for the syrup, but if you want that perfect melting filling, then make sure you use the best-quality cheese available.


Recipe

Serves: 6-8 people

Preparation and cooking time: Preparation: 45 minutes. Cooking: 30 minutes

Kunafa

1. Ingredients:

Simple syrup

  • 500g granulated sugar
  • 300ml water
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Ashta

  • 180ml double cream
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • 30g fine semolina
  • 1 tsp cornflour

Kunafa crust and cheese*

  • 500g kunafa or shredded filo pastry, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, remember to thaw before using)
  • 227g ghee or butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 600g grated mozzarella cheese 
  • 1 block of halloumi - pre-soaked and drained
  • 1 tub of ricotta

* If you are able to find akkawi cheese in a Middle Eastern supermarket, make sure to chop it into small chunks, soak in fresh water for at least 24hrs, rinse and drain thoroughly, then blitz into a breadcrumb-like texture before assembling.

Garnish:

  • Pistachios
  • Dried rose petals
  • Dried rosebuds

2. Method:

Simple syrup

1. On a medium to high heat, put your sugar, water, saffron and lemon juice into a saucepan. Do not stir it otherwise the sugar will crystallise. Leave it on a low heat for roughly 10 minutes or until all the sugar has dissolved. 

2. Once done, set aside to cool.

Syrup

Ashta

1. In a small saucepan (not on the hob), combine the double cream, cardamom, semolina and cornflour. 

2. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to the boil and continue cooking until the mixture thickens into a loose pudding-like consistency. 

3. Once done, set aside to cool.

Kunafa crust

1. Preheat oven to 200C

2. Warm the ghee until completely melted and allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, break up the kunafa pastry into smaller pieces and pour in the melted ghee. Mix with your hands until the ghee is incorporated with the pastry. 

3. Take your baking tin and line it with half of the shredded buttery pastry. Be sure to push it up the sides - this will ensure the filling doesn’t spill out. 

4. Now for the cheese. Make sure you have rinsed off the halloumi and patted it dry. Chop it up into small chunks. Crumble up the ricotta on a separate plate and drain any moisture. Keep your grated mozzarella separate, too. 

Filling Kunafa

Kunafa filling

1. Begin filling your kunafa with a layer of ashta and a layer of mozzarella, halloumi and ricotta. 

2. Once filled, cover with the remaining shredded pastry, then place in the oven for 30 minutes.

3. Once your kunafa is golden and crispy, remove from the oven and carefully flip your cake tin upside down onto a flat plate.

4. Now you can begin decorating your kunafa. Top with the cold syrup, crushed pistachios, rose petals and rosebuds. Cut yourself a slice, drench it in even more syrup and enjoy the sweet cheese filling oozing out of the crunchy pastry. 

Decorating Kunafa

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