Looking for a couple of delectable recipes to use during Ramadan that your family and friends will love? Leave it to Palestinian chef and television-cookery-show trouper Suzanne Husseini. Husseini, who splits her time between Canada and Dubai, hosted one of the most popular Arabic cooking shows in the Middle East, Sohbe Taibe, has been a guest judge on Top Chef Middle East and is a regular guest on TV shows like The Marilyn Denis Show on CTV. The Kuwait-born culinary whizz, who is renowned for her modern Arabian cuisine and live cooking demonstrations, is also the author of two cookbooks, "When Suzanne Cooks" and "Modern Flavours of Arabia." Here are two of our favourite recipes by Chef Husseini.
Knafe Pastry with Cheese, 8-10 servings
1 pack (500g) knafe pastry, thawed
1 cup clarified butter, melted and still hot
1kg Nabulsi cheese or akkawi, desalted
250g fresh mozzarella cheese
6 tbsps. sugar
2 tbsps. orange blossom water
2 tbsps. rosewater
4 tbsps. clarified butter
4 drops red food colouring paste
1 cup ground pistachio nuts, to garnish
3 cups rose syrup
- In a food processor begin to grind the pastry, keeping it coarse. Do this in four batches. Place in a large bowl and pour the hot, clarified butter on top. Using your hands, rub the butter to coat every strand of pastry. Set aside.
- In a colander, drain the de-salted cheese and pat dry with a towel. Add in the mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle the sugar on top followed by the orange blossom water and rosewater. Mix together well. Preheat oven to 190˚C.
- Coat a round baking pan (30cm diametre) with the butter. Add the orange food colouring to the bottom of the pan and use a piece of wax paper to spread the colour and butter all over and up the sides of the pan. Take handfuls of the buttered pastry and press into the prepared pan, going slightly up the sides. Use approximately ²/3 of the pastry mixture. Place the prepared cheese on top, pressing to cover completely. Place a couple of paper towels on the cheese to absorb any excess water. Cover with the remaining pastry and press gently.
- Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes until the cheese melts and the pastry becomes crisp. Give it a shake, the knafe will come away from the sides in one piece. Remove and invert the hot knafe onto a serving platter with the orange side on top. Douse with the cooled syrup. Garnish with the ground pistachio nuts. Indulge while its hot.
Caramelised Onion Tart with Sumac Roast Chicken, 6 servings
2 ½ cups flour
2 tsps. cracked black pepper
pinch of salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small cubes
40ml cold water
½ cup olive oil
8 medium onions, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp. sugar
Small handful of thyme sprigs (leave some to garnish)
2 tbsps. sumac
6 chicken breasts, on the bone
Salt and pepper
Fresh pomegranate seeds
½ cup toasted pine nuts
- In a bowl put the flour, salt, black pepper and sugar and mix. Put in the cold butter cubes and using your fingers rub the butter into the flour to make a crumbly consistency. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water and egg. Bring the flour gradually together and mix quickly to make a smooth dough. Flatten slightly into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour until ready to use. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
- Roll out the pastry to fit two 33 x 9 cm long rectangular, false bottom tart pans. Prick the base with a fork. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Line the pastry with parchment paper (or foil), fill with dry beans to prevent it from rising and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, turn down the oven temperature to 180°C and bake for an additional 15 minutes until they have a light golden colour. Take out to cool completely. Remove from the pan, place on flat serving platters and set aside.
- Put the olive oil in a large heavy-based pot. On medium heat sautée the onions and garlic. Sprinkle in the salt and sugar. Stir to coat the onions well and turn down the heat to low. Add the fresh thyme. Cook gently, stirring, taking care not to burn them. The onions will caramelise and sweeten as they cook. This will take about 40 minutes. When they are meltingly soft, remove from the heat and stir in the sumac. They will turn a pinkish colour. Pour into a colander sitting in a bowl to drain the excess oil.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C. Coat the chicken with olive oil, salt, pepper and sumac. Roast for about 30–40 minutes. When done, remove, cover lightly with foil and leave to rest.
- To assemble the tart, spread the caramelised onions on the pastry. Remove the chicken from the bones, thinly slice and place on top of the onions. Garnish with pine nuts and a few fresh thyme sprigs and pomegranate seeds.