How to Make Cheese Manakeesh | culture: the word on cheese
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How to Make Cheese Manakeesh

Recipe and photography by Wafa Shami

When Wafa Shami reminisces on her early memories of Akkawi, she’s met with a vivid scene of her parents boiling goat’s milk and gently straining soft curds in her Ramallah, Palestine, home. “The aroma filled the entire house,” she says, remembering the final step of preserving the cheese in jars filled with fragrant brines.

Those beloved moments shaped Shami’s adoration for archiving aspects of her culture on her website, Palestine in a Dish. She relies on her mother’s wisdom to guide her craft and protect a deep lineage of recipes, techniques, and ingredients for future generations. This connection between food and people shapes the content of her blog and social media accounts, which have recently shifted to include specific calls-to-action that address the catastrophic events unfolding in Gaza as generational wisdom and lands face erasure. “These recipes are tied to my people’s culture and their connection with the land,” says Shami.

To make Akkawi, animals are milked in the spring, when fresh grass imparts a vibrant, earthy flavor. The curds are then molded and preserved in salt water or brine.

Here, Shami shares her recipe for Manakeesh (also pronounced mana’ish), a popular savory flatbread that highlights the cheese and can show up for breakfast, snacking, or celebratory occasions. This Palestinian dish is layered with melted Akkawi, topped with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, and Shami adds nigella seeds for gentle notes of cumin, oregano, and onion. Make this Manakeesh and embark on a tiny leap toward honoring indigenous Palestinian ingredients and culture.

Akkawi Cheese Manakeesh

Servings 16 flatbreads


  • 1 cup warm water divided
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups flour divided, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons for kneading
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon for glazing
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Akkawi cheese
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of nigella seeds optional


  • Combine 1⁄2 cup water, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl. Let it rest for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it becomes frothy.
  • Combine 1 1⁄2 cups flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining water to the yeast mixture. Using your hands or a tand mixer, combine well. Cover with cling wrap and a kitchen towel. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  • Add remaining flour and olive oil to the mixture. Knead on a floured surface for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Using your hands, coat dough and bowl with a few drops of oil. Cover with cling wrap and a towel. Let the dough proof in a warm place, about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 420°F.
  • Divide dough into 2-inch balls. Using your hands or a dough roller, flatten each ball into a 1⁄4-inch-thick disk and place on a greased baking sheet.
  • Spread shredded cheese over each disk. Sprinkle tops with nigella seeds. Repeat until all dough pieces are covered.
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the bottom and edges are golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Ashia Aubourg

Ashia Aubourg is culture's former Assistant Digital Editor. She received her BA in Food Studies and Policy Studies from Syracuse University, where she researched components that make up equitable food systems. She previously held print and digital roles at Food & Wine, Cuisine Noir, America's Test Kitchen, and others, where her writing unearthed underrepresented narratives within food, travel, and culture. Before starting her writing career, she held food policy and social impact roles across various nonprofits and companies.

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