Hala’s Knafeh Cheesecake – Joudie Kalla

This cheesecake is a modern take on the traditional knafeh that is known and eaten throughout Palestine. Knafehis the most popular of desserts, and most famous in Nablus. This recipe was given to me by my cousin Hala, and I am so happy that she shared it. The cheesecake mix is mine, but with the added flavours of orange blossom and rose water it is incredible. The kataifi base and topping are simply wonderful and just make you want to eat more. Honestly, you have to try this to see what I’m talking about. You will love it.

Serves 10–12

For the cheesecake mix

  • 2 eggs
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 280ml double cream
  • 700g cream cheese (I use Philadelphia)
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water
  • 1 tbsp rose water

For the kataifi

  • 600g kataifi pastry
  • 250g butter, melted
  • 1 x quantity Sugar Syrup
  • dried, crushed rose petals, to serve
  • 50g pistachios, half crushed, half left whole, to serve

For the sugar syrup

  • 400g caster sugar
  • 250ml water


Preheat the oven to 180ºC Fan (200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6). Line a 25cm round loose-bottomed cake tin with baking parchment.

For the cheesecake mix, cream the eggs and sugar in a bowl until doubled in volume and very light in colour.

In a separate bowl, start whipping the cream until it has formed a medium to stiff

peak. Fold in the cream cheese, orange blossom water and rose water. Add the egg and sugar mix and beat until well combined and thickened. Set aside while you prepare the base and topping.

For the kataifi, halve the pastry and the butter. Press one batch of pastry into the base of the round cake tin and add one batch of melted butter on top. Bake for 15–20 minutes until the pastry is a golden caramel colour.

Remove the tin from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 100°C Fan (120°C/230°F/Gas ¼–½). Add half the sugar syrup to the tin while it’s still hot, then add the cheesecake mix and bake again for 1 hour.

While this is cooking, shred the second batch of kataifi into a pan over a medium–low heat and toss it with the remaining melted butter. Toast it in the pan until it is golden, then remove from the heat, toss in the remaining sugar syrup and leave to cool completely. Store in a sealed container until ready to use.

Once the cheesecake is cooked, remove from the oven and refrigerate overnight to set.

The next day, add the golden crunchy kataifi pastry on top with the rose petals and pistachios and serve.


Images and recipes from Baladi by Joudie Kalla, Murdoch Books, RRP $49.99 Photography by Jamie Orlando Smith

Baladi – Joudie Kalla

Baladi takes us on a journey through Palestinian cuisine. Draw up a chair at her table and enjoy these stories and recipes from Joudie Kalla and her loves of this bright and cultural food.

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