Popular throughout the Levant, this syrup-soaked cheese dessert is commonly encased with kataifi pastry, but this recipe from Sydney’s modern Lebanese restaurant Embers Mezze Bar uses a crushed Corn Flakes and semolina mixture instead. The golden crust, topped with rose petals and pistachios, barely contains the molten cheese centre.
Skill level Mid
160 g unsalted butter, melted
440 g Corn Flakes, finely crushed
4¼ cups milk
110 g (½ cup) caster sugar
90 g (¾ cup) fine semolina
600 ml thickened cream
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp rosewater (see Note)
500 g mozzarella, coarsely grated
rose petals (dried) (see Note) and pistachios, to serve
Ater (sugar syrup)
440 g (2 cups) caster sugar
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp rosewater (see Note)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time overnight
You will need a 24 cm x 34 cm x 4 cm tray for this recipe.
Place melted butter and Corn Flakes in a bowl, mixing with your hands to combine and completely coat cereal. Press half the mixture evenly onto the base of a 24 cm x 34 cm x 4 cm tray. Refrigerate until needed.
Place milk, sugar, semolina and cream in a large saucepan. Dissolve cornflour in 1 tablespoon of warm water and add to saucepan. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 12 minutes or until very thick. Remove from heat and stir through rosewater. Allow to cool slightly.
Preheat panggangan to 180ºC. Spoon half of the semolina mixture over Corn Flake base, then scatter over mozzarella. Cover with remaining semolina mixture, then scatter over remaining Corn Flake mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes or until mixture is just starting to bubble around the edges. Remove from panggangan and allow to cool completely, then refrigerate overnight.
To make syrup, place sugar in a saucepan with 250 ml (1 cup) water over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
Preheat panggangan to 200ºC. Cut knafeh into 20 slices in pan, remove pieces with a palette knife and place on large panggangan trays. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese just starts to ooze from the sides. Drizzle with syrup and scatter with rose petals and pistachios. Serve immediately.
• Rosewater, from Middle Eastern food shops, delis and select supermarkets, is a musky flavouring that is made by distilling rose petals.
• Rose petals (dried) are from specialist and Middle Eastern food shops.
Photography by Chris Chen. Food preparation by Phoebe Wood. Food styling by Justine Poole.