Keeping you informed about Palestinian cultural heritage research, and our work here at the Archive

Keeping you informed about Palestinian cultural heritage research, and our work here at the Archive

Sunday, July 13, 2014

katayef: "a dessert worthy of a fairy-tale"

SBS - source

What a week.  "I am in my mother and father's house now, my friends" posts one of our favorite Palestinian food bloggers, Jessica from Bint Rhoda's Kitchen:
"We are in Western Michigan, enjoying the sweet, cool breezes. Our days are filled with summery bliss, with sailing and swimming, with late morning cups of coffee and mounds of my mother's incredible food... But our nights are spent in Palestine. 
"After the children are finally asleep ... we go home. We scroll through the headlines, the news feeds. We jump from news sources to first-hand accounts from our friends, posting updates from our old neighborhoods. It's a strange thing, you know, when your old hometown becomes a war zone. Your friends from home, from your old neighborhood, start posting on their social media pages things that you wish you had never seen. But we cannot look away...."
We feel much the same here in Australia, totally overwhelmed by recent events, no way to help, so worried for friends.  All we can do is pray and remember that we are not without a voice, however small, and that we are not without a role - our job here is to keep Palestinian culture alive. Which we are doing in this post - we need something totally frivolous to take our minds of things.

This post came about because some Archive friends and staff wrote to us about katayef.  In our recent review of Zar Bakery and Cafe in Canberra we wrote:
"one of the reasons we'd come to Zar Cafe that particular day was that Sam had posted on Facebook on June 25 about making katayef for Ramadan. Katayef is a favorite sweet of ours. It's totally over the top. Wiki observes on their Palestinian cuisine page:
"A common Palestinian dessert reserved only for Ramadan is qatayef, which could be provided by the numerous street vendors in several major Palestinian cities or towns as well as typical Palestinian households.  
"Qatayef is the general name of the dessert as a whole, but more specifically, the name of the batter that acts as a base. The result of the batter being poured into a round hot plate appears similar to pancakes, except only one side is cooked, then folded. The pastry is filled with either unsalted goat cheese or ground walnuts and cinnamon. It is then baked and served with a hot sugar-water syrup or sometimes honey"
"We especially love the version made with a crushed walnut, cinnamon rose water and ashta cream filling, either fried or baked, then served drenched in hot orange water scented sugar syrup (Claudia Roden's recipe here).  See why we say it's over the top?  
We'd not had it for a long time.  It's really only served at Ramadan and we'd not been in the right place or the right time for it.  But today we were lucky. While Sam didn't have any ready to eat, as it was a few days still to Ramadan, he very very generously gave us a few pancakes and some advice for how to put everything together - thank you Sam :) 
We assembled Sam's pancakes with our favorite crushed walnut, cinnamon rose water and ashta cream filling, baked them as Sam suggested, then served them with orange water scented sugar syrup to Archive volunteers and visitors for afternoon tea or to take some home for Iftar.  We didn't take any photos - we're sorry about that, but they proved too delicious to stay on a plate long.

Word then got around to other staff and volunteers not here that day. We ended up promising to make some more very soon, and to post some recipes of the staff blog.  Which we are doing now - you'll find several good recipes in the links at the end of this post. We also highly recommend Archive staff and friends in Canberra head over to Zar Bakery and Cafe to try Sam's version.

Completely by chance, another favorite food blogger, Dubai based Arva from I Live In A Frying Pan posted about katayef this week.  Not only that, we think Arva came up with the best ever description of katayef.  Arva was writing about experiencing Ramadan in Dubai in this post, which was titled "Stepping into a Palestinian-Jordanian home for Iftar":
"Ramadan is that holy time when we take a small step closer to the lives of those who are less fortunate. We experience their hunger, their fatigue, their daily struggle for the things we take for granted. And in turn, we channel that empathy into prayers, zakat (alms) and acts of feeding the poor. 
"Dubai has monetized Ramadan. We – ‘we’ as businesses and ‘we’ as consumers – have reduced Ramadan to a series of shopping deals and buffet extravaganzas that are a far cry from the humble, restrained spirit of the month. I laugh every time a radio ad for a five-star restaurant 'Iftar tent' closes with the profound words: Embrace the spirit of Ramadan, likely written by someone whose only experience of the holy month was behind a ludicrously over-stocked buffet table. 
"Just when I’d given up all hope of having an authentic Iftar experience in the city, I receive an invite from Maysa Meqdadi, the Palestinian-Jordanian mother of two living in Mirdiff and running home-based cooking lessons under a brand that shows she means business: Let's Talk Food Dubai ..."
Arva had a wonderful evening at Maysa Meqdadi's home, both preparing and sharing the meal.  Towards the end of the post Arva gives this glorious description:
"Our evening draws to a close with cups of cardamom-infused Arabic coffee, digestive sage tea and a dessert worthy of a fairy-tale – baby pancakes (ataif asafoori) pinched into cones, ladled with our ethereally light, homemade clotted cream, rolled in pistachios, garnished with orange blossom petals or dotted with Damascus rose buds. And drizzled with our homemade sugar syrup."
Ms Meqdadi also creates her family's preferred versions:
"Not averse to a few fun departures from tradition, Maysa creates the Nutella-stuffed ataif that her sons love. And two ataifs down, I end up becoming a Nutella slave as well."
 "A dessert worthy of a fairy-tale". Really, we can't top that description. It's absolutely perfect.

To continue our theme of Palestinian food we're going to publish another post soon about diaspora / contemporary versions of traditional Palestinian dishes.  Until then, why not head to Arva's blog to have a read and check out her stunning photos of Maysa Meqdadi's katayef.  We can only hope Archive friends and staff are lucky enough to be enjoying similar evenings during Ramadan wherever you all are in the world :)

More Info:
(we're adding katayef posts as we find them :)
For more Palestinian / Middle East bloggers see the list in the far right column on our blog's home page.

Thank you to you all for giving us lovely posts this week to take our mind off things.

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