This dessert tends to get plenty of compliments and has become our signature dish. It is quite complex, with a few different components, and is quite ambitious for home preparation – not because the stages are difficult, but because there are a few of them. You can use a generic supermarket feta, but for a finish that is smooth and salty, buy one of the tinned smooth fetas sold in Middle Eastern delis. It will be worth it.
Kadaif is the strangest, most amazing pastry; it is made out of tiny thin noodles that you bake with butter and sugar. The best thing to do is to buy it ready-made in a Middle Eastern grocery store; use what you need for this recipe and keep the rest in the freezer for next time. However, if you can’t find kadaif, use filo pastry and shred it as finely as you can with a knife or a pair of scissors.
The advantage of this dish is that each part can be made in advance and assembled just before you are going to eat – just as we do at Honey & Co. So it is good for stress-free entertaining (although not so much for stress-free preparation). You could simply make the cheesecake cream and place it in a large bowl, sprinkling with some nuts and drizzling with honey; not quite the same, but still tasty.
Makes a generous 4 portions
For the kadaif base
  • 25g melted butter 
  • 50g kadaif pastry  (or shredded filo)
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar 
For the cheesecake cream
  • 160g full-fat cream cheese  (we use Philadelphia)
  • 160ml extra thick double cream 
  • 40g icing sugar 
  • 40g honey of your choice (a grainy one works best, in my opinion)
  • 50g feta, smooth and creamy
  • seeds from ½ vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
For the honey syrup
For the garnish
  • A few fresh oregano or marjoram leaves
  • A handful of whole roasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • Some mellow-flavoured seasonal fruit  – white peaches or blueberries are best (raspberries or apricots are also good)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.
Mix the melted butter with the pastry and sugar in a bowl. Fluff the pastry by pulling it and loosening the shreds with your hands till it gets an even coating of sugar and butter. Divide into four equal amounts, pulling each clump of pastry out of the mass like a little ball of yarn. Place these on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. They should resemble four flat birds’ nests, each about the size of a drinks coaster.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool and keep in an airtight container until ready to serve. The pastry nests will keep for 2-3 days, so you can prepare them well in advance.
Place all the cheesecake cream ingredients in a large bowl and combine with a spatula or a big spoon, using circular folding motions until the mixture thickens and starts to hold the swirls. Don’t use a whisk: it’s vital not to add air to the mixture as the secret is in the texture. Check that it is sufficiently thick by scooping some onto a spoon and turning it upside-down: it should stay where it is. If it is still too soft, mix it some more. (If you are increasing the quantities in this recipe to feed lots of people, I suggest using a paddle on a mixer for this, but you’ll need to watch it like a hawk so it doesn’t turn into butter.) You can prepare the cheesecake cream in advance (up to 48 hours before serving) and keep it covered in the fridge until it is time to assemble the dessert.
Put the honey and water for the syrup in a small pan and boil together for 1 minute, skimming off any foam or impurities that come to the top. Remove from the hob and leave to cool, then store covered in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
When you come to assemble the dessert, place a pastry nest on each plate and top with a generous scoop of the cheesecake mix. Sprinkle over the herb leaves and chopped nuts, add a few blueberries or a couple of slices of peach, and drizzle a tablespoon of the honey syrup over everything. If you want to be super-luxurious, drizzle with some raw honey as well.
This recipe can be found in our book Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East
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The kadaif pastry and feta are not available for delivery but can be purchased from Honey & Spice at 52 Warren Street, London, W1T 5NJ.



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