Hi lovely readers! The following post is the guest post I did for Lail at With a Spin yesterday. I am posting it here on my site too so you can have access to the recipe. I had some readers email me requesting that I make it available here too. I hope you will still go and say “hi” to Lail over at With a Spin. Thank you for reading and I will see you here soon. Hope you are having a great weekend.
It is an honour to be guest posting over here at With A Spin. I am Nazneen from the blog Coffee and Crumpets. When Lail asked me whether I could write a Ramadan post for her I agreed enthusiastically. I have gotten to know Lail over the last few months and I am in awe of her dedication to her family, her career, her blog and her heritage. I have learnt more about Bangladeshi cooking from Lail than from my Bangladeshi friends here! I hope one day to have the occasion to meet her when I am going through Texas again.
Lail asked me to share a recipe that is close to my heritage or upbringing. I thought about that for a while and I remember emailing her and telling her that I am of a very confusing heritage!
My family is from India but I was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in England and married an American, I never had the opportunity to experience India at any length. Short summer holidays away was the extent of my time there. In that sense, it has always been difficult for me to truly understand customs and cultures of my ethnic country. I am very much British in my thinking and up bringing and even though my children try to Americanise me, I’ve been resisting for a while. I don’t know how long I can last; there are four of them and one of me!
What was I going to pick?? All those countries run through my veins. I ate mainly Indian food growing up but Middle Eastern food and British food are also very much part of my life. We visited Saudi often and I still have family who live there, and British food was easily available. Now in my own kitchen, I take a keen interest in reviving British classics at home.
In the end, it was Ramadan comfort food that won out. I really enjoy Middle Eastern desserts during Ramadan. It maybe they are made for that reason, to enjoy after a long day of fasting with the right amount of sweetness, creaminess or nuttiness.
My favourite Middle Eastern bakery in Houston inspired this particular recipe. The lady who owns the bakery is Lebanese and really wonderful, and she does an awesome job with her desserts. I don’t really care for baklava unless it comes from her place. She does a great baklava. She also does great Kunafah Rolls and they are some of favourite treats from her store. But, you have to get there early, Ramadan weekends she is sold out by early afternoon. Living in Colorado now, I sure miss her treats.
The pastry for these is just regular phyllo sheets. They can be a bit tricky but I don’t buy the thinnest sheets. Phyllo sheets are available in different thicknesses and I prefer the next thickness up. It’s a lot easier to handle. Keep a wet towel over the sheets to keep them from drying out and work quickly. I used half sheets to make the rolls because I wanted smaller rolls and not too much pastry over powering the creamy filling, if you would like bigger rolls and more crunch, by all means use a full sheet per roll.
Ashta is a Middle Eastern clotted cream. There are many ways to make this but I use a very simple recipe and it tastes like the filling in the store bought rolls. This is a versatile filling and can be used for the Arabic pancakes called Ataif bil Ashta also (my favourite Ramadan dessert).
- 12 sheets phyllo, defrosted and covered with wet towel
- 1 stick butter, melted
- ¼ cup neutral flavoured oil
- sugar syrup
- jam or ground pistachios for garnish
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups half and half
- 5 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 teaspoons orange blossom water
- 2 cups superfine sugar
- 1 cup water
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- 1-2 tablespoons orange blossom water
- MAKE THE ASHTA:
- Pour all but a half cup of the half/half-cream mixture into a heavy bottomed pot and bring to boil over medium heat.
- Stir the cornstarch into the remaining half cup and smooth out into a paste.
- Once the milk is nearly to a boil, add the cornstarch mixture and stir vigorously.
- The mixture will thicken instantly and as soon it bubbles and is thick, pull off the heat.
- Add the orange blossom water.
- Put a piece of cling wrap directly onto the surface of the ashta and place in fridge to cool.
- MAKE THE SUGAR SYRUP:
- place the sugar, water, lemon juice in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes.
- The syrup should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon.
- Add the orange blossom water and pull off the heat to cool. Put aside.
- Prepare the syrup and ashta the day before so that they can chill overnight.
- ASSEMBLING THE KUNAFAH ROLLS:
- Add the oil to the melted butter and keep aside.
- Lay a sheet of phyllo dough on the counter or chopping board and brush liberally with the melted butter and oil mixture.
- If you are making the smaller rolls, cut the sheet in half.
- Lay a tablespoon or so of ashta in a log shape at one end of the phyllo sheet.
- Now, gently roll up the edges into an egg roll shape.
- Brushing with more butter if needed to keep the roll moist and able to stick.
- Place on a baking sheet until you finish rolling the rest.
- Repeat with the rest of the sheets.
- Make sure you only bake 12 on one sheet because they do expand whilst baking.
- If you want to bake them immediately, preheat the oven to 375℉.
- Bake the rolls for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
- Unfortunately, mine had a run in with an enthusiastic toaster oven when I went to crisp them up again for the photos and so they got a little more tinged than I wanted, they were still excellent though.
- Don't overstuff them because they will seep through the rolls if they are not tightly wrapped. Make sure they are moist and sealed well.
- Once out of the oven, let them cool slightly and then drizzle the sugar syrup over them or serve with the syrup on the side.
- Garnish with some chopped pistachios or rose petal jam.
- Makes 12 large or 24 small rolls.
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