Saturday, 22 October 2016

Knafeh- Tayta's Recipe (With Gluten Free Option)

My Tayta was the queen of the kitchen. She was making knafeh way before it was cool to line up and pick up a serving from a mobile shipping container. (Shout out to the Bearded Bakers for putting this traditional dessert on the map!)

I'd love to give all of the credit to Tayta for this recipe, but what you see here is the result of what some might call foodie fate. When Tayta arrived in Australia in the 1970s, the Arabic speaking neighbours of Greenacre took comfort in finding others who shared their language, customs and their bloody good recipes. That's when Tayta tried and tested a range of recipes, some including semolina, some with stringy white cheese and some with corn flakes.

After all of the Tayta's testing and tasting, the creme de la creme ended up being the most simple knafeh recipes of them all. And funnily enough, the base ingredient is ... you guessed it, cream.

WARNING: Just like my Tayta, I don't stick to measurements. For some steps, you'll just need to use your eyes and your tastebuds. 


Sugar Syrup (Attar)

2 cups sugar
1 tsp rosewater (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice


Cornflakes (optional gluten free)
Unsalted butter

Cream base

1L milk
1 cup cornflour (optional gluten free)
600ml thickened cream


1) Bring sugar, lemon juice and water to the boil. Put enough water in so that the sugar is covered by about a centimetre. Ensure that the sugar is dissolved. Boil for approximately 10 minutes. Test the consistency by drizzling the syrup on a chilled plate (See the video below for the consistency). Add the rosewater at the end, if desired.

2) Put the cornflakes in a food processor and let them have it.

They should be fine enough for crumb but course enough for a bit of texture, as below.

3) Melt the butter in a pan that will be large enough to fit the cornflakes.

4) Add the cornflakes, tossing them gently until they are golden brown. Line a 30 cm by 30cm tray with about a third of the toasted cornflakes. Set the other two thirds aside for the top of the knafeh.

NOTE: You could skip this step altogether and simply put knobs of butter on top of the knafeh once completely assembled. Then bake in an oven for 15 minutes, until the butter has melted into the cornflakes.

5) Mix the milk, cornflour and thickened cream in a pot. Stir as soon as the cornflour is added to the mix, to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and burning.

6) Stir baby stir. Adjust the heat according to how confident you are. I like to live on the edge, so I turn that dial up to high. After about five to ten minutes, you will see a few bubbles. They'll suddenly appear and the mixture will be thick, like custard.

7) Pour the mix into your 30x30 cm tray.

I see you there, photobombing onions. You will pay for your ways.

8) Top the cream mix with the remaining toasted cornflakes.

Don't be scared to get your hands dirty! It's the way my Tayta would've done it.

9) Let the knafeh set. If you can't wait and want to eat right away, be warned that the mix will spill. It will be delicious, but it won't be pretty. Wait about half an hour and the consistency will be just right.

10) Cut a square and drizzle that sugar syrup like you're dying to see your dentist. Serve hot or cold, both ways are winners.

TIP: Store your sugar syrup in washed glass jars. You can use it later for your next batch of knafeh, baklava or other Middle Eastern sweets.

If you want to experiment with cheese, you can use this recipe and cheat! Pour out about half of the cream mix, top it with grated mozzarella, then pour the rest of the cream mix on top.
To experiment with semolina, add some to the cream mix as you're boiling and stirring.

Sahtein! And Get Ducked :)