Yoghurt cheese

Yoghurt cheese

Labneh

By
From
New Middle Eastern Food
Serves
4 as part of a mezze selection
Photographer
Mark Roper

Labneh (yoghurt cheese), the simplest of cheeses, is made regularly around the Middle East. In Lebanon and Syria, for instance, people eat it daily and it is widely available in the souks, dairies and supermarkets. It’s hard to find commercially made Labneh in Western countries, but it is easy to make at home. The result will vary depending on how long you leave it to strain, which may be between 24 and 72 hours (the longer the time, the firmer the result).

After 24 hours straining it makes a delicious spread, drizzled with olive oil and served with crusty bread and olives. Or serve it as an accompaniment for spicy dishes such as tagines, Indian curries or most rice dishes.

At the end of 72 hours you will have a very firm lump of fresh cheese. When ready to serve, form it into smooth round balls or quenelle shapes using spoons. Make an indentation in the top and fill it with rosewater and a big drop of extra-virgin olive oil. Alternatively, roll the firm labneh into small balls with oiled hands. Place the balls in jars with olive oil and the herbs of your choice. They will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Labneh is infinitely versatile and lends itself to both savoury and sweet flavourings. You could try adding a teaspoon of garlic purée, for instance, or swirl in a spoonful of harissa, a hint of saffron or fresh herb purées such as mint, basil, oregano or dill. Sweet versions can be made with a splash of rosewater, orange-flower water or a fragrant honey.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1kg thick natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon sea salt
50ml extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

Method

  1. Mix the yoghurt with the salt. Spoon into a clean muslin or cheesecloth square or a tea towel. Tie the four corners together and suspend the bundle from a wooden spoon over a deep bowl. Put it in the refrigerator and allow it to drain for 24–72 hours. The longer the hanging time, the firmer the result.
  2. To serve, tip into a bowl and flatten the surface. Make a little well and fill with extra-virgin olive oil.
Tags:
Malouf
Greg
Lucy
Middle
Eastern
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