A few days ago, the members of Cottage Cooking Club closed the books (so to speak) on yet another chapter of our cooking adventures – we finished cooking and baking our way through yet another one (or two) of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s wonderful cookbooks. August is always a good time for reflection, for taking a step back, for looking at things from a different angle, for expanding our palates and enjoying new foods, so, while we wait, with bated breath, no doubt, for Hugh´s new book to hit stores in the UK on September 21, entitled River Cottage Much More Veg (for more info visit here) – I like to turn my thoughts to a few different kinds of recipes, the ones that are not to be found in any of Hugh´s books.
There are so many things on my list that I want to try out and cook and bake and test that I have the feeling that if I do not get started right now, I will never get a chance to make them. So, without further ado, here is one of the many inspirational dishes I tried and loved and enjoyed and shared with my family. To the last crumb, or rather shred of that delightful Kataifi pastry.
This Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif is meant as an homage to Levantine dishes. It is fun to eat. It is pretty. It is crisp on the outside with a smooth, creamy, cheesy center and a pleasant sweetness from the local early summer harvest honey, and, yes, my kids loved it. To our palates it tastes like a cross between an appetizer and a dessert. I was told that it is meant as a starter before lunch or dinner but would be quite at home at a party as well. Well, no matter what time of day you choose to enjoy this dish, wether with a nice glass of wine, a fine mineral water or maybe even a cup of floral Earl Grey, you will be more than pleasantly surprised.
This recipe is a hybrid of two Levantine dishes – Kadaif and Kanafeh. Kadaif is a type of baklava, with a filling of nuts, drenched in honey. Kanafeh is a special type of cheese pastry, soaked in sugar syrup and served as dessert.
Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif (Shredded Sweet and Savory Pastry Pie)
- 60g unsalted butter, plus some extra to grease the cake pan
- 250g kataifi/kadaif pastry*
- 200g feta, crumbled**
- 100g halloumi, grated***
- 125g ball mozzarella (not buffalo), shredded
- 100g clear runny honey (a local honey would be nice here but any clear, mild honey will do nicely)
- 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
- a good squeeze of lemon juice
- untreated/organic dried rose leaves for decoration (optional) and/or some rosemary sprigs
** a brined curd white cheese made in Greece from sheep's milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goat's milk
*** a Cypriot/Middle Eastern semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk, and sometimes also cow's milk
- 20cm cake pan (for ease of cleanup no loose bottom or springform but if you own baking pans with loose bottoms only, make sure to double-wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil)
- Grease the cake pan well with butter (best done with a pastry brush), then set aside and pre-heat your oven to 220°C (200°C fan-assisted).
- Put the kataifi in a food processor and whizz until you have strands that are 1 to 2cm long.
- Melt the 60g butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat then, when foaming, tip in the pastry. Stir to coat it in the butter, then cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the pastry has become a little translucent and has changed color slightly.
- Tip about two thirds of the pastry into the cake tin and spread it over the base, pressing it up the sides, creating a hollow in the center.
- Mix the three kinds of cheese together and season well with freshly ground black pepper.
- Press the cheese mix into the hollow, then put the remaining pastry over the top and pat it down to secure it.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the pastry is deep golden and crisp.
- While the Kadaif is in the oven, put the honey, rosemary sprigs and lemon juice into a small saucepan and heat gently until the honey is warm – but don’t let it boil. Leave it to cool while the pie finishes cooking.
- Once the pie is ready, remove it from the oven and carefully invert it onto a serving plate- to do so, hold the plate on top of the pie, smoothly flip the pie and plate together in one move, then remove the cake pan. Place a serving plate on top and flip one more time.
- Heat the honey again until warm, then drizzle it over the pie to soak in.
- Top with untreated rose leaves or rosemary sprigs, then slice and serve while still warm. Please NOTE that a sharp, heavy knife is best for cutting.
Clearly, the Now is a good time to expand our horizons and try out many a new thing – this lovely Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif is certainly a delicious way to do so. A great way to ease into the lovely month of August.