Sweet stuffed pancakes – Kataif / Qatayef
It was with this distant, vague memory that I approached my mother one day many years ago and tried to describe Kataif to her, expecting her to know what i was talking about when I described it as simply “a sweet she made once” (in my vague memory with no details or specifics). I certainly tested both of our memories that day! Finally, by a process of elimination, we figured out that I was talking about kataif as my mum declared she did make it a long time ago but she couldn’t remember the quantities for the ingredients.One of my favourite Egyptian sweets is Kataif. We didn’t have it often at home, in fact we only had it a handful of times that I remember. I am not sure if that is because it is time consuming – which it is – or if it is because you need a few mouths to eat them because they are very sweet and it only takes 3 or 4 to satisfy the sweetest of sweet tooths.
This was the first time I really saw my mum experimenting in the kitchen. She was always such a sure cook, never needing to measure ingredients and cooking by using her senses almost all of the time.
I have made them at home on occasion for my family, mainly when I was testing the recipe and then again for photos for my cookbook. So it was with great pleasure that I undertook to make a video of how to make them. I watched as my mum went about mixing water, yeast and sugar and when she was satisfied the yeast was viable she added flour and more water to form a batter. Then a bit more flour and a bit more water until she said she couldn’t remember the texture of the batter. Anyway she kept what she had made and moved on to the next step. She got a frying pan added some oil and poured some of the paint like batter into the hot oil. She repeated and repeated the process finding that each would stick to the pan no matter how long they cooked for. She got out a hot plate and tried cooking on that with and without oil to find that they would stick there too. Finally another frying pan, a non-stick, oil-less hot pan produced pancakes that didn’t stick. She turned them over and when they were lightly cooked she removed them and put them on a plate. She then tried to fill them with the crushed almonds, sugar and sultanas. Pressing the edges tightly together and finding they would not stick or if they did they would open again while waiting to be fried. Some even made it as far as being fried only to act like a warm toe dipped into freezing cold water! We cooked the remainder of the batter in the non-stick pan, without oil and only on one side. Yes!!! We were able to finally seal in the luscious filling and fry the Kataif without them opening. After 3 long hours of trial and error we both enjoyed our kataif, and what a sweet reward it was.
How then did it take me over 6 hours to get the footage to make Kataif? Well we attempted time laps for the first time. Growing yeast. Varying the quantity of yeast and container to demonstrate the effect well. So 4 attempts later, in a cup and not a glass, nor a plate, we had a good result. Then there was the batter, the first fry, the stuffing, the second fry, the soaking, the draining and then finally…the eating.
I hope that you will give these a try and let me know if you like them as much as I do. Even though I don’t make them much, I am sure glad that I finally have a record of these for the next time it crosses my mind to make them!
Corn oil to deep fry
2 cups/ 500g sugar
2 cups / 500ml water
½ lemon juiced
pinch of vanilla powder
7 gram yeast sachet
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ cups plain flour
1 3/4 cups warm water
1 ½ cups crushed raw walnuts, almonds, pistachio kernels or mixed nuts.
1 tablespoon sugar
40g sultanas, optional
Combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes. It should be a thin consistency. Leave to cool. Once cooled, add a few drops of vanilla essence and stir.To make the syrup:
To make the dough:
Place the yeast, sugar and ¼ cup warm water in a cup, stir, then leave in a warm place for 10 minutes until bubbles form. If there are no bubbles the yeast is dead and you must start again.
Sift the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture. Add the remaining warm water and using your fingers mix together to form a smooth consistency. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place such as an oven, for 1 to 2 hours until the dough doubles in size.
To make the Kataif:
Combine the crushed walnuts, sugar and sultanas together in a small bowl. Set aside. Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Mix the dough with a spoon and take about half a tablespoon of the dough and spread in the pan thinly and evenly to a 10 cm diameter (just thicker than a crepe). Do not use any butter or oil. Remove from heat when the dough has changed from white to yellow. Do not cook the other side. Place on a clean dish and repeat with remaining mixture.
Place a teaspoon of the stuffing mixture in the centre of each pancake on the uncooked side. Fold over, pressing the edges firmly together forming a half moon. Repeat with each fritter, until all are sealed before you start frying.
Heat the oil in a deep fryer over high heat. Test by placing any dough scraps in the oil – it should bubble entirely over the dough immediately. Carefully place 2 or 3 Kataif into the oil at a time, and fry until golden brown in colour turning as required. Remove from the oil and place directly into the cooled syrup, turning to coat. Remove from the syrup and leave to drain in a colander or sieve. Repeat. Serve immediately and enjoy.