However you pronounce it, remember the name for if you are in to trying new styles of food then the Middle Eastern dessert dish of knafeh is set to become the next big thing.
The growing interest in healthy diets and styles of food that are both good for you and taste good has seen dishes from the Middle East become increasingly fashionable. Helped by the influence of celebrity chefs such as Yotam Ottelenghi.
It is certainly transforming middle-class dinner parties. It’s out with the tired stodgy lasagnes and over-complicated French dishes of old, and in with the Za’atar, koftas, baba ganoush, and shish kebabs.
Middle Eastern food is all the rage, and the inspiration behind more than a few food trends in recent years. And amateur chefs can’t resist trying to replicate them at home.
Now the latest can’t-live without trendy pudding amongst foodie aficionados is knafeh, a dessert from the desert if you will.
What is it?
Spelled various different ways, this is a divine dessert of cream cheese wrapped up in shredded filo pastry, drenched in syrup and served warm. It’s like a combination of baklava and cheesecake, and the result is a moreish, sensational – not to mention calorie-laden – delight.
Knafeh has become very popular in London, just as the number of new wave Turkish, Lebanese and North African restaurants increases by the month. The kind of places that have hour long queues forming at 6pm. And one of the main draws is knafeh.
Where to find it
In Borough Market in South London, make a beeline for Arabica Bar & Kitchen. Its Turkish version has a melting duo of halloumi and Palestinian akawi cheese, and is topped off with orange and cinnamon. Best eaten alongside a thick, viscous Turkish coffee, a caffeine and sugar hit that will keep you buzzing all afternoon.
Over in Covent Garden, The Barbary’s take on the dessert uses a bird’s nest of vermicelli, rather than the traditional katalfi shredded pastry, giving it a more yielding, less crunchy crunch. This gives way to an oozing middle layer of goat’s cheese and mozzarella warmed up perfectly.
The whole ensesble is then drenched with syrup and orange blossom and toped off with a few pistachios and raspberries. It’s utterly divine, and the sort of dish that has the whole table scrapping over every mouthful. Make sure to order your own, and guard carefully!
Meanwhile, café and deli Honey & Co’s co-owner Sarit Packer admits to being “addicted” to knafe. (without the ‘h’ this time), which she describes as “the ultimate comfort food”.
For her, the ultimate example of knafe is to be found back in her home town of Acre, north Israel. There, the dessert is made on large trays, and drizzled with fragrant syrup and pistachios.
In London, Packer makes her own version with salty feta and goat’s cheese.
Another opening which is sure to to get London’s gourmet set salivating is Maryelbone-based Yosma. Chef Hus Vedet, formerly of Barbecoa, makes his version of knafeh, using traditional Turkish kadoyif pastry.
Arabica 3 Rochester Walk, Borough Market, London, SW1 9AF
The Barbary 16 Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials, London
Honey & Co 25a Warren Street, London W1T 5LZ
Yosma Yosma, 50 Baker Street, London, W1U, 7BT