Try your hand at cheesemaking with this simple Middle Eastern drained yogurt cheese, which is similar in consistency to a thick cream cheese or curd cheese and has a mild, slightly acidic flavour. It’s also incredibly versatile and can be adapted to suit both sweet and savoury dishes – see Lebanese Lentils with Labneh Balls on page 172 – and is great with a range of accompaniments, from fresh figs and nuts to anchovies and charcuterie. Perfect for a sharing platter with friends and family.
Preparation time 10 minutes,
plus draining overnight
500g/1lb 2oz/2 heaped cups Greek yogurt or thick plain yogurt
1½ tsp sea salt
flatbreads, crackers, figs and rocket/ arugula salad, to serve
2 handfuls of walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
seeds (arils) from ¼ pomegranate
a few mint sprigs, leaves torn
1–2 tbsp clear honey, such as chestnut
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Line a sieve/fine-mesh strainer with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth large enough to hang over the sides (or use a new J-cloth). Suspend the sieve/fine-mesh strainer over a mixing bowl.
Mix the yogurt with the salt and spoon it into the cloth lined sieve/fine-mesh strainer. Pull the cloth up around the yogurt and twist the top to make a bundle. Leave the yogurt in the refrigerator to drain for at least 12 hours, preferably up to 24 hours – the longer you leave it, the firmer the labneh will be. Give the bundle a gentle squeeze every so often to encourage any whey to drain away.
Remove the muslin bundle from the sieve/fine-mesh strainer and open it to reveal a smooth ball of soft cheese. The labneh is ready to eat. Simply place it in a serving bowl or plate, scatter the walnuts, pomegranate seeds and mint over the top and drizzle with honey and olive oil. Serve with flatbreads, crackers, figs and a rocket/arugula salad.
From Part-time Vegetarian
»Labneh with charcuterie
Roll the labneh into balls and coat in a mixture of fresh herbs and chilli/hot pepper flakes. Serve with a selection of charcuterie, figs, olives and crusty bread.
»Labneh with olives and anchovies
Top the labneh with a few spoonfuls of Olive Tapenade and serve with a tomato and anchovy salad.
»Labneh with harissa and lamb
Mash a spoonful of labneh with harissa paste and a little olive oil and use as a stuffing for a chicken breast or spoon on top of a chargrilled lamb fillet.