Today’s Qatayef recipe is a delicious treat of small pancakes stuffed with ashta, the Middle Eastern clotted cream I shared in my last post.
The traditional katayef recipe is the one that’s filled with walnuts and deep fried before being drenched in sugar syrup with or without a sprinkle of cinnamon. While they can be found throughout the year in the Middle East, they are especially popular during the holy month of Ramadan.
But the recipe we are making today is called qatayif asafiri. They are called such because once filled and shaped, they resemble a bird’s beak (bird is asafiri/عصفور in Arabic).
There are 2-3 parts to today’s recipe.
- The pancakes
- Simple sugar syrup
I’ll talk you through making all of them, or if you prefer, how to cut down on the process buy using a shop bought alternative for the ashta.
Just as a point of interest and to prevent any confusion, qatayef is also spelt or pronounced katayef or atayef. I use all three words, depending on whom I happen to be speaking to. And so, you’ll find all of them in this article.
How to Make Katayef Pancakes
The main part of making qatayef is the pancakes themselves but these little guys are probably the easiest pancakes you’re ever going to make! They are very, very similar to the Moroccan Beghrir in composition and method of cooking, differing in how they are served or eaten.
All you need to make atayef pancakes is:
- all purpose flour
- optional fine semolina
- pinch of salt
- baking soda
- water or milk (or a mix)
All we do:
- Whisk the ingredients together, either in a bowl or, if you prefer, a blender.
- Leave the katayef batter to rest for 30 minutes for the yeast and baking powder to work their magic.
- Then we fry the pancakes without any fat. And because we don’t use any fat, ideally, you want to be using a non stick pan or skillet.
The combination of yeast and baking powder creates that signature look of a pancake full of bubbles (or holes). Much like the Ethiopian Injera.
Ashta (The Cream)
Traditionally, the cream used for filling atayef is ashta, the Middle Eastern clotted cream.
I have a comprehensive article about it and how to make it very easily at home. Just click here for our ashta recipe.
To make ashta (or eshta), all you need is:
- lemon juice (or vinegar)
- optional butter
That’s it. Make it the day before and place it in the fridge, as ashta is best cold and has to be refrigerated.
However, if you don’t fancy making it, or are short on time, the perfect ashta substitute to me, is mascarpone cheese. It has the same rounded, creamy flavour with just a hint of vanilla (even though there is no vanilla in the making of).
If you love Middle Eastern desserts, you’ll know that one of its signature characteristic is the drizzle of homemade sugar syrup that’s been flavoured with rose water or orange blossom water.
I always have some simple syrup at home for this reason and also because having grown up in Singapore, I love rose syrup as a cordial, and its local offshoot, sirap bandung.
The latter is a combination of rose syrup and milk, and you will the find the recipe here, on Singaporean and Malaysian Recipes. That’s the blog I started in Jan 2021 that I call my nostalgic culinary affair, as it’s all about recipes from my childhood.
Do you know that making simple syrup at home is a 10 minute job? All we do is boil, then simmer some sugar and water in a saucepan and then flavour it as we discussed above.
It’ll keep for months in the fridge, so no fear of wasting any excess syrup.
However, you can skip the simple syrup if you make your ashta sweet. So that’s something to think about.
Some people make their qatayef pancakes with just water, as I have here, and some use milk, or a mixture of the two.
If you want vegan qatayef, all you need to do is make the pancakes as in the recipe calls for here. Then, fill your pancakes up with a shop bought vegan cream or even vegan yoghurt. These days, I believe that is so easy to find in supermarkets.
A simple Google search will also give you homemade vegan cream and vegan mascarpone recipes.
When you’ve cooked all your pancakes, it’s time to fill and top them. This is what we’ll be doing:
You can fill katayef asafiri with cream in 2 ways:
- Make the shape by pinching half the pancake together, then spooning the cream in.
- Or, my preferred method is to spoon some ashta onto the middle of the pancake, then pinching the egdes together to half close it.
Give your finished qatayef a drizzle of some scented simple syrup if you didn’t sweeten the ashta when you made it. How much syrup you use is a matter of preference. Always err on the side of caution, as you don’t want them too sweet.
Then, have some syrup on the side, in a little jug, so everyone can add more, if they want.
As with so many Arabic desserts, crushed nuts as a topping is also customary with katayef. I love ground pistachios, but you can also top them with crushed or ground walnuts.
I also always sprinkle some crushed dried edible rose petals over the eshta.
Click here to read more (on LinsFood) about how to use dried rose petals in your kitchen.
Can Katayef be Made Ahead?
You can cook Qatayef pancakes up to 6 hours ahead and before filling them. Now I have seen the odd food site suggesting that the pancakes can be made the day before. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this, as they don’t taste as good.
You can make ashta (the qatayef cream) up to 3 days before and keep it in the fridge. But do not freeze it, you can read more about that on the ashta article.
I suggest consuming filled qatayef them within 3 hours because anything with cream doesn’t want to be left out of the fridge for too long.
You can also freeze qatayef pancakes, just like regular pancakes. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet, then open freeze them, then place in a ziplock bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
To use, just defrost for 1 hour and fill.
Tips for Making the Best Qatayef
1. I like to add semolina as I’m a huge fan of its flavour in desserts and baking. It adds “strength” to the pancakes, allowing them to hold their shape better, when pinched. You can leave it out if you prefer.
2. Water or milk? Or both? This is purely a matter of preference. Using milk adds a little flavour to your qatayef pancakes, as well as making them slightly fluffier. I use milk half the time too.
3. The best way to pour the batter onto your pan is to transfer it into a jug. The spout allows you better control of the flow and therefore, the size of your pancakes.
5. Katayef pan – as mentioned above, it wants to be a good quality, non stick pan. You can even use pans that are meant for the Indian uttapam. That way, you will always get pancakes that are the exact same size. This is the one I have from Amazon that I use to make uttapam (affiliate link).
6. As you are frying your qatayef pancakes, look out for any batter residue on the pan. Just brush it off with a tea towel or kitchen paper before the next pancake. Otherwise, your batter may stick.
6. Cover the cooked pancakes with a tea towel to keep them from drying out, while you are finishing off cooking the batter.
7. If you are not filling your pancakes immediately after cooking, I suggest layering each one with baking or parchment paper. Your pancakes will start sticking if left piled on top of each other too long.
And that’s about it! Shall we get in the kitchen?
If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating! Shukran!
If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor.
Qatayef Asafiri (Pancakes Stuffed with Cream)
- 1 bowl
- 1 whisk
- 1 measuring scales
- 1 measuring spoon
- spoons and ladles as needed
- 1 medium sized jug click to purchase the one I'm using on Amazon (affiliate link)
- 1 non stick pancake pan/frying pan/skillet click to purchase the one I'm using on Amazon (affiliate link)
- 1 large plate for stackingpancakes
- 1 spatula
- 1 serving dish
- 150 g all purpose flour
- 100 g fine semolina
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 1 tiny pinch salt
- 500 ml water (or 250ml water + 250ml milk)
Filling and Garnish
- 200 g white sugar
- 125 ml water
- 1 Tbsp rose water or orange blossom water
Make the Simple Syrup First (if not sweetening your Ashta)
- Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan on medium heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Take it off the heat, leave to cool for 10 minutes, then stir in your flower water. Leave to cool on the kitchen counter until needed.Your syrup will thicken as it cools. If you refrigerate it, it will be very thick. You can always dlute it with water to your preference.
- Place all the ingredients together into a medium sized bowl and whisk together to mix well.I use a metal whisk and just whisk it for about 30 – 60 seconds. Any tiny lumps will soften and fall apart during resting time.You can also use a blender for this.Leave to rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Cooking Qatayef Pancakes
- Heat your non stick pancake griddle on medium heat. When hot, pour a little of the qatayef batter to form a small circle about 8cm (3") in diameter.Because we only want a small pancake, don't pour from a great height, as you have better control when you pour closer to the pan.
- Cook until the batter doesn't have any signs of "wetness". You'll see the batter changing colour as it cooks. See the image.
- We only cook one side of the pancake. So when it's done, lift with a spatula and transfer to a plate.Repeat the process and cook all the batter up, stacking the pancakes on top of each other. Cover the cooked pancakes with a tea towel to stop from drying out.
- Carefully lift a pancake off the stack. They are ever so sligtly sticking to each other, so be gentle. Fill the middle of the pancake with a heaped teaspoon of ashta (or mascarpone, if that's what you're using).Be careful not to overfill, and stay away from the edges.
- Starting at one end of the pancake, pinch the 2 edges together to stick, all the way up to ⅔ of the pancake. Leave one end open as you see in the images.
- Sprinkle with some chopped pistachios and rose petals and arrange on your serving platter.Repeat with all the other pancakes.Drizzle with the syrup if your ashta wasn't sweetened.