Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Taste of Egypt: Katayef

Ramadan is here, and with it comes copious amounts of food! I've decided against posting any overly political articles for the next month, and instead will focus on the more positive aspects of Egyptian living, particularly the food.  Today, I tried my hand at Katayef (a brave decision seeing as how the last time my pancakes were all falling apart once they hit the fryer - fortunately today they were a success!) So here you have a typical Middle Eastern / Egyptian dish for Ramadan, Katayef, in both its sweet and savoury versions. The recipe below is designed to make either one full batch of sweet, or one full batch of savoury. If you're planning on making both, double up on the pancake ingredients.

So here's what you'll need: 

For the Pancake: 
1 cup flour (baking flour works best)
1 cup of room-temperature water + 2 tbsps luke-warm water
1 tbsp dry yeast
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp lemon juice
A dash of salt

For the sweet filling**:
1 cup chopped nuts (almonds, unsalted peanuts or walnuts)
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup chopped coconut
1/4 cup of raisins / sultanas
1/2 tsp of cinnamon

** You'll likely have left overs from the sweet filling (I know I did) but it's better to have too much than not enough. Plus, it makes a great topping for Egyptian drinks like Sahlab.

For the savoury filling: 
1/3 kg softened white cheese
1/4 kg softened butter

Syrup topping: 
1 part water to 1 part fine sugar (eg. 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup fine sugar) 
1 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Whether you're making sweet or savoury katayef, the pancakes are all made the same way. For the remainder of the recipe I will refer to the "filling," so simply substitute should you wish to make sweet or savoury. 

  1. Combine your 2 tbsp of luke-warm water and dry yeast in a large bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes, until the yeast has soaked up the moisture. 
  2. Once your yeast is ready, add your flour, remaining cup of water and salt. Mix well. Your batter should resemble pancake batter, but just a tad bit bubblier (that's the yeast). 
  3. Cover your bowl and let rise for an hour or so, until your batter has doubled in size. 
  4. Once ready, add your baking soda and lemon juice to your batter. Mix well. Set aside. 
  5. Heat up a non-stick pan, and add your tbsp of sunflower oil. 
  6. Gently drop your batter into the heated non-stick pan. You're aiming to make pancakes that are roughly 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter, which equals about 1.5 tablespoons of batter. The easiest way to do this is with a measuring spoon. 
  7. Let your batter cook until you see bubbles appear on the top side. DON'T FLIP your pancakes. 
  8. Remove your pancake, and set aside -- NOTE: I advise against stacking the pancakes on top of each other as the remaining moisture will cause them to stick. You want them to be sticky, just not to each other! An easy way to avoid this is to place a sheet of wax / baking paper between each stack, or spread them out individually. Don't lay them out on paper towels, as again they will stick to this. 
  9. Continue until you have prepared all your pancakes. Let cool and proceed to making the filling.
Depending on which filling you are making, mix all your ingredients together. The savoury filling should be a creamy consistency, i.e. you want to make sure you have fully mixed your butter and cheese together. 
  1. In a frying pan / pot, heat up 2/3 cup of cooking oil. (you can throw a little piece of cooked pancake in to tell you when the oil is hot enough - once the pancake has risen and is 'bubbling' at the surface, your oil is warm enough to use.)
  2. While you are waiting for your oil to heat up, fill your katayef. Do this by taking one teaspoon of your respective filling, and placing it in the middle of your pancake. 
  3. Gently fold over your pancake, and using your finger tips seal the edges. Your pancakes should arleady be moist enough that you don't need to add anything to ensure they stick. Make sure you've sealed it all the way around, otherwise your filling will spill out upon frying. 
  4. Gently place each stuffed Katayef into the hot oil, cooking evenly on both sides (about 1.5 minutes for each side). 
  5. Remove from the oil and place on a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
If you've made sweet Katayef, while your completed Katayef are cooling, you can start the syrup - or as they call it in Egypt, the asal (honey). Using a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, cinnamon and lemon juice. Bring to a gentle rolling boil, and let boil for around a minute. Remove from the eat. For a thicker syrup, add an additional 1/4 cup of sugar. Drizzle over the Katayef. 

Bil Hana Wa Shiva!

Sweet Katayef

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