Recipe for peace: Kunafa (PALESTINE)

Our Recipes for peace series features a range of inspiring dishes to celebrate the varied - and tasty - ways in which food can play a role in building peace.

This week’s recipe comes from London based food blogger Sophia Vassie. With both Egyptian and French heritage, Sophia has grown up enjoying a range of delicious cuisines and this has nurtured her interest in the connection between food and culture. She has contributed a Palestinian recipe collected from her time living in East Jerusalem.

Find out more about our work in the Middle East.

Sophia Vassie’s Kunafa (PALESTINE)

Kunafa is a traditional Arabic dessert found across North Africa and the Levant. I discovered it a few years ago when I spent 3 months working in Sheikh Jarrah, a predominantly Palestinian Arab neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, just 2 kilometres north of the Old City. Throughout my time here I had the opportunity to eat the most wonderful Palestinian food and experience first-hand the importance of food to Palestinian identity.


Made with filo pastry and a smattering of pistachios and rose water, kunafa vaguely resembles another Arabic/Turkish favourite – baklava. It is said that that the idea of kunafa was originally brought to the region by the Ottomans. Palestinians in the city of Nablus added cheese between the layers of pastry and created what is now an internationally recognised and loved dessert.


Ingredients (serves 10 people)

  • 1 pack of kunafa pastry (this can be bought from any Middle Eastern shop)
  • 250g ghee or butter
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 300g crushed nuts and sultanas
  • 100g desiccated coconut
  • 50g pistachios
  • A sprinkle of rose petals
  • Water
  • 2 tbls rosewater
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 250g sugar

Cooking instructions

  • Make a syrup by adding sugar and a cup of water to a pan. Bring to the boil without stirring.
  • When the sugar has dissolved, squeeze in the juice of one lemon and add the rose water. Take down to a simmer, never stirring, until the syrup has become thick and shiny.
  • Set the syrup aside to cool.
  • In a bowl toss the kunafa pastry in ghee or melted butter until covered. Kunafa pastry is just shredded filo pastry!
  • Layer the kunafa pastry in a pan and pack down tightly.
  • Add a layer of mascarpone and top with crushed nuts, desiccated coconut and sultanas, then add a second layer of kunafa and pack down tightly.
  • Place pan in a hot oven and cook until golden.
  • Remove from the oven and immediately pour over syrup.
  • Leave to cool – when cooled, tip it upside down and sprinkle crushed pistachios and rose petals.
  • Best enjoyed when served with fresh mint tea.

Sophia has written a blog about her Global Food Challenge, a fundraising project for Action Against Hunger in which she attempts to cook national dishes of the 42 countries the charity currently supports. You can follow her on Twitter @sophiavass2.

Do you have a recipe for peace that you would like to submit? We’d love to hear from you. Email us:


Photo © Sophia Vassie