Labneh

Labneh

By
From
New Feast
Makes
500g
Photographer
Alan Benson

We can’t imagine life without yoghurt. We both, independently, eat it by the tubful and at virtually every meal. We are totally convinced of its life-enhancing properties – not just because it is delicious – and love its versatility as both a savoury and sweet ingredient.

We are particularly fond of labneh, which is simply yoghurt that is strained through a cloth to remove the whey, which makes it thicker and more unctuous. There are degrees of thickness of course, depending on which yoghurt you start off with (some are thicker than others) and for how long it is strained. At the farthest end of the spectrum, you’ll find yoghurt cheese that is virtually dry and has a strong, rather sour flavour. This type of labneh has been strained for several days and is then formed into little balls. These may be rolled in herbs and spices and are stored in olive oil, which means they will last for many months. Fresher labneh is strained for hours, rather than days, making it closer in consistency to a creamy spread. It has a mild, fresh flavour and may be eaten on its own, seasoned and drizzled with olive oil, or combined with other ingredients to make a dip, such as the universally popular tzatziki.

We’ve featured versions of tzatziki in several of our earlier books, so here we offer a base labneh method as well as some of our favourite – and slightly more unusual – labneh and yoghurt cheese recipes.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

Labneh: strained yoghurt

Quantity Ingredient
1kg natural yoghurt, (don't use Greek-style)

Savoury labneh

Quantity Ingredient
1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
along with the garlic add 10 saffron threads or swirl in 1–2 tablespoons harissa or smoked paprika or any fresh herb puree to the yoghurt.

For sweet labneh

Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon orange flower water
along with the honey, add 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped or sprinkle in the lightly crushed seeds from 4 cardamom pods, or swirl in 1 teaspoon orange flower water or rosewater.

Method

  1. Scrape the yoghurt and flavourings into a clean tea towel (a muslin square or new J-cloth will also do nicely). Tie the four corners together to form a hanging bag. Twist firmly to give it a good squeeze and kick-start the draining process. Suspend the bag from a wooden spoon set over a deep bowl and allow it to drain in the fridge for at least 4 hours or, preferably, overnight. This will give you softstrained yoghurt, which is best used as a creamy accompaniment, similar to creme fraiche.
  2. If you strain the yoghurt for 24–48 hours, you will produce a thicker, firmer labneh, similar in consistency to cream cheese. Use as an accompaniment to spicy dishes, such as tagines, Indian curries and most rice dishes. Combine with fresh herbs and/or vegetables to make dips or simply drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and eat with crusty bread and a dish of olives.
  3. Straining the yoghurt for 48–72 hours, will give you a much firmer yoghurt cheese. (After 72 hours it is very firm and dry indeed.) Remove it from the bag and, with oiled hands, roll into small balls. Place the balls in a jars with olive oil and the herbs of your choice.
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