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Fit for the Sultans, this dessert dates back to the time of the Ottoman Empire and it is where it gets its name from

July 3, 2020 at 10:10 am

Growing up in America in the nineties, we didn’t have too many choices for anything Middle Eastern. For example, we had one Arabic television channel, and in Ramadan, there was one Ramadan series at 9pm. I remember we would all gather around the television from 9-10 to watch whatever series the Arabic channel deemed worthy that year and we loved it regardless of what it was about. The other thing I remember about that hour was having something sweet to eat while we watched. Sometimes it was the most American thing, chocolate chip cookies fresh from the bakery and other times it was from the one Middle Eastern bakery near our house. The most popular thing in our family were atayef, more specifically, the tiny asafiri ones filled with cream. However, whenever I went to the bakery, my eye was always drawn to the pretty dessert that looked like knafeh but wasn’t quite it. It was actually othmaliye and it was topped with a bright red lemon blossom, making it even more enticing.

The main thing that sets othmaliye apart from knafeh is that it is filled with ishta instead of cheese. I have tried out different ways to make ishta like the bakery near my house, but nothing was quite right. I finally found this recipe on YouTube and it was perfect! The ishta is not meant to be super smooth in this recipe, so it gives it a nice texture. This two-step method may seem intimidating, but it is so easy and definitely worth it.

This dessert dates back to the time of the Ottoman Empire and it is where it gets its name from. It was originally made for the sultans. It then spread throughout the Levant, where it has become a staple most commonly made in Ramadan. Many like to form the kataifi pastry into a disc and fry it in oil or ghee, but I personally like to make mini ones in my cupcake tin with some butter. I find that they are the perfect size and you don’t feel guilty eating more than one! If you prefer, you could make a large one in a pie plate or cake tin, but make sure you make two discs, one for the top and one for the bottom.

This dessert can be eaten warm or cold, and I love them both. They are quite different, but especially in this weather, I prefer the filling and syrup to be cold. You could serve this with an extra dollop of ishta on top, along with a drizzle of syrup and a sprinkling of pistachios and feel like royalty!


Makes 12-15 minis

Cream filling:

250 ml milk

1 tbsp white vinegar

1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tbsp orange blossom water (to taste)


125 g Knafeh/Kataifi pastry

100 g butter, melted

Sugar syrup:

1.5 cups sugar

1 cup water

1 tsp lemon juice

1-2 tsp orange blossom water (to taste)


    1. To make the filling, bring the milk to the boiling point and then add in the vinegar. Let simmer on medium heat for a few minutes until the water turns yellow and curds form.
    2. Pour the mixture into a sieve and leave to drain and cool for at least 20 minutes.
    3. In a pot, mix together the milk, flour, cornflour and sugar until completely dissolved, then place on medium heat and allow to simmer while stirring continuously. Once the mixture thickens, add in the curds and remove from heat. Mix until fully incorporated. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and cover with cling film, making sure the cling film touches the surface. This stops the cream from forming a skin. Allow to come to room temperature. I like the filling to be cold, so I refrigerate it for a few hours after it comes to room temperature.
    4. To prepare the pastry, unfold the pastry and pull out groups of long strands of pastry, and arrange in the bottom of a cupcake tin. I like to arrange mine in a swirl, but feel free to just make an even layer. Press firmly with the bottom of a cup or your hands and add a spoonful of butter over each one. Bake at 180C for 5-7 minutes or until crunchy and brown. Set aside to cool. Alternatively, you could make it in a large cake tin or pie plate and adjust the cooking time until it is brown and crunchy. Make sure you make two equal layers.
    5. To make the sugar syrup, heat the water and sugar together and let boil for 10 minutes, add the lemon juice, allow to boil for a minute and remove from heat. Add the orange blossom water and leave to cool.
    6. To assemble, place one layer of pastry, followed by a generous dollop of the cream filling. I like to put mine in a pastry bag to make it easy and mess-free. Top with another layer of pastry, add syrup to taste and sprinkle with crushed pistachios and enjoy!

Want to try another recipe? Lentils two ways