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UK: chef Abu Julia and comedian Shazia Mirza appear in new cooking video to promote Palestinian human rights

Star Palestinian chef Abu Julia introduces comedian Shazia Mirza to famed Palestinian dessert knafeh


Sixteen-minute video is latest in ‘Palestine at Home’ series, part of Amnesty’s End Israeli Apartheid campaign


‘Cooking a meal is actually a form of symbolic resistance to Israeli oppression’ - Tom Guha


Amnesty International UK has released a new video and recipe for its “politically-aware” Palestinian cookery series, featuring star Palestinian chef Abu Julia and British-stand-up comedian Shazia Mirza. 


In the 16-minute video, Abu Julia shows Mirza - who is currently appearing in BBC One’s Celebrity MasterChef - how to make knafeh, a famous Palestinian dessert traditionally eaten at times of celebration.

Talking about family life in his native Gaza and how entertaining and cooking plays a major part in everyday social life, Abu Julia explains how he has sometimes been forced to prepare meals while the sound of bombing could be heard outside - something he says “you never get used to”. He also tells Mirza about life during a 22-day-long conflict in Gaza when it was too dangerous to go outside to buy food, and he and his family were forced to survive on a daily diet of potatoes, bread and chilli. 

The recipe for knafeh is the third in a new series of short cookery videos (“Palestine at Home”) which showcase Palestinian food and cooking as a form of resistance to Israel’s international crime of apartheid against Palestinians. Earlier this year, the series paired Palestine on a Plate chef Joudie Kalla with comedian Guz Khan, and Palestinian chef Sami Tamimi with British-Lebanese stand-up comedian Esther Manito. Each of the featured videos in the Palestine at Home series is accompanied by a downloadable recipe.


Abu Julia said:

“Life in Gaza - under occupation, under siege, under apartheid - can be crushing at times. But despite that, Gazan culture is bursting with energy, including delicious food. Knafeh is a dessert that is traditionally cooked during celebrations. So, celebrate Gazan culture and join Amnesty’s campaign against Israeli apartheid by cooking this delicious dessert.”  

Shazia Mirza said:

“There can no longer be any doubt that Israel is committing apartheid against Palestinians - and in Gaza it is particularly extreme. It is time to bring an end to this system - and you can help by cooking this delicious dish in order to raise awareness with your friends and family. it’s a win-win.”

Tom Guha, Amnesty International UK's Crisis Campaigner, said:

“Palestine at Home is a politically-aware cookery series helping to challenge the erasure of Palestinian culture and history. It’s a reminder of how a seemingly ordinary activity like cooking a meal is actually a form of symbolic resistance to Israeli oppression. People can pick up useful cookery tips while learning how they can support our campaign to help bring Israeli apartheid against Palestinians to an end.”

Amnesty is also issuing a shorter, three-minute video of the chef-comedian encounter which will appear on Instagram Reels and other platforms.

Apartheid crimes

Last year, Amnesty published a major report showing how the Israeli authorities’ treatment of the Palestinians amounts to the international crime of apartheid, with massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, the forcible transfer of Palestinian people from their land, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians in Israel. Since the formation of a new Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu in December, there has been a sharp deterioration in an already poor human rights situation in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Amnesty is calling on the UK government to ban imports of all goods produced in Israel’s illegal settlements, while ensuring that UK-based companies are prevented from supplying the Israeli authorities with any equipment which could be used to implement its system of apartheid against Palestinians.

Recipe for knafeh


500g knafeh pastry (you can usually buy this from your nearest Turkish shop if it’s not available in your local supermarket)

500g mozzarella cheese, or akkawi cheese 

300g sugar

200g water

50g ghee

50g pistachios

Food colouring (optional)

How to make it:

1: Mix sugar with water and boil for ten minutes, then add ten drops of lemon juice. Boil for two more minutes and let it cool completely.

2): Put the cheese in a bowl and add cold water. Leave for 30 minutes to draw out most of the salt.

3: Cut the pastry into small pieces, add two spoons of ghee and three spoons of the cool sugar syrup and run it through with your hands.

4: In a non-stick tray, add a spoonful of ghee and a pinch of food colouring (optional), distribute by hand and lay down the pastry mix. Press firmly.

5: Drain the cheese and let it dry if possible, then sprinkle over the pastry.

6: Put in the oven for ten minutes at 180 C distributed heat. Then take it to the stove to cook from the bottom and give it a crunchy texture. You should make sure the heat is not in the centre but to the side of the tray. Otherwise, it will burn. And don't worry - the heat will reach the centre and it will be cooked evenly throughout.

7: After 7-10 minutes or after checking if it develops a colour, cover it with a lid or another tray for five minutes, then flip it into a tray and add sugar syrup and crushed pistachios.


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