Ramadan Kulaj Flavours
We were quick to respond to Suzan Masri’s invitation to join her for a taste of her Ramadan special. She had read our monthly call to families in both Family Flavours and Nakahat ‘Ailiyeh magazines and wanted to share with us those special moments spent in the kitchen gathered around a home-cooked meal.
When we got to Suzan’s, we were greeted by her husband, Fida’ Karkash, and their children Fahmi (25), Thuraya (20), Zaid (14) and Tamara (4); Suleiman (18) was too shy to join in the fun!
All the family, including Teta Hala Badawi, herself a mother of four daughters, was decked out and dressed for the occasion. Sporting a traditional hand-embroidered thoub from Hebron, Suzan explains that she would show us how to make kulaj. It is easy and quick to put together and one of her family’s favourite Palestinian desserts.
Seated at their dining room table after watching the family cook, Baba Fida’ can’t wait to dig into the hot kulaj. He offers his family generous servings. They pass around syrup to pour over the crunchy layers. By the exclamations of “Thank you, mama!”, you can definitely tell that this labour of love is much appreciated!
“Weather permitting, we usually cook this dessert over a brazier and enjoy eating it in our backyard,” says the 47-year-old mother of five.
1 kg ready-made kulaj dough (can be bought from Arabic sweet bakeries. The dough comes in paper-thin circular layers and 1 kg makes 10 layers)
1 ½ kg pre-boiled white salty Nabulsi cheese, soaked overnight in water in the fridge to remove the salt
2 tbsp ground pistachio nuts
50 g melted butter mixed with ½ cup corn oil
Ghee (enough to brush the pan with)
½ cup cold milk
For the Syrup
4 cups sugar
3 ½ cups water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp rosewater
To prepare the syrup, stir and boil the sugar, water and juice until thick. Turn off the stove, stir in the rosewater and set aside to cool
1. Brush the bottom of a circular pan with ghee, oil and butter
2. Cover with one thin layer of dough and brush with the already-mixed liquid butter and oil
3. Brush with milk to prevent the dough from drying out
4. Repeat and continue layering the dough until you reach layer number five; brush with oil and butter again
5. Sprinkle layer number five with rough chunks of white cheese
6. Continue layering five more layers of dough and brushing them with butter, oil and milk. Top the last layer with the same, then also brush with ghee
7. Over medium heat, cook the layers on a stove until golden (around 10 minutes).
8. Cover this pan with a slightly larger one and turn upside down, transferring the dough into the second pan
9. Put the pan back onto the stove and remove top pan. Ten minutes later, check that the bottom layer is cooked by inserting a bake-proof knife underneath to ensure that it, too, is golden
10. Turn off the heat and cut the dough vertically and horizontally. You should hear the dough crunch as you cut through it
11. Pour the syrup over the layers and cover to ensure that the dough soaks up the syrup
12. Remove the top pan five minutes later and serve hot
13. Keep the extra syrup in a saucière, should anybody with a sweet tooth wish to add more