Recipe Courtesy Tawfik Shehata, Taboo Resort, Gravenhurst, Ontario.
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In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, add water, sugar and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Let simmer to a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat, let cool and add rosewater or vanilla.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 12-inch round, 2-inch high cake pan.
In a large bowl gently loosen kataifi. Mix very well with the ½ pound of melted butter.
Place blanched almonds in a decorative pattern in the cake pan. Cover with half of the kataifi. Press down lightly.
If using the Ricotta spread in an even layer over kataifi, then cover with the remaining half of the kataifi. Press down gently.
If using the raisins and walnuts sprinkle an even layer over kataifi. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Cover with the remainig half of the kataifi. Press down gently.
Bake until lightly golden, about 30 to 45 minutes. (Note: the inverse side will be more golden when you turn it out.)
Immediately pour cold sugar syrup evenly over the hot kunafa. Let cool completely to room temperature. Invert onto serving plate.
If using the Ricotta, kunafa should be served warm or hot. It may be difficult to invert with the ricotta filling so cut and serve from pan.