Labneh

making labneh by the james kitchen
making labneh, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.
 This is such an easy way to make cheese and such an interesting one, too. Labneh is an Arab cheese, Yotam Ottolenghi (Ottolenghi) uses goat’s milk or full-fat cow’s milk yoghurt but advises against greek or set yoghurts. Diana Henry (Salt, sugar, smoke) on the other side, uses greek yoghurt. I have used the turkish yoghurt (10% fat, without gelantine) which I buy at my local Turkish grocer in 1 kg containers. The reason for giving a recipe for ¾ of this container is simply that most of the times I skim a little bit of and use it for other purposes like making a spicy dip or to tone down a very spicy curry or if we want it for breakfast.We had labneh as a starter or as part of a simple supper with mezze and flat bread and I have given it prime protein place in my lunch salad at the same time as to calm down the spiciness of some leftover lentil thing which appeared on the same salad. Photo will follow as it was a magnificent beauty and an exceptional salad, which will most definitely appear on our table again.

Labneh

750g or 26 ½ oz turkish or greek yoghurt (10%)
¾ teaspoon salt
Olive oil
spices (like sumac, cardamom, cumin, fennel or cayenne, smoked paprika) or herbs (like dried mint, tarragon, parsley, chives etc.)You could use a larger amount of yoghurt like 1kg or 37 oz if that is the container size you can buy, simple add a little more salt, like 1 teaspoon. Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and line it with a double layer of muslin or a cheesecloth. Pour the yoghurt onto the cloth and leave to drip for a while. Pick up the edges and tie them together with a knot and use a piece of string to further secure it and tie a loop, so you can suspend the cloth over a bowl on a hook or something. I used a tall vase from Ikea and created a cross with two chopsticks on the top to hold the muslin. Leave in the fridge for 48 hours so the yoghurt can lose all excess liquid and turn into something like a savoury cream cheese, remotely tasting of a salty lassi. No surprise, same ingredients.

Even if left in the fridge for another day, there is no harm done. Then unfold the muslin and you will have a nice ball of labneh with an intricate pattern. You could use it already like this and place it on a roughly hewn wooden board with spices and herbs for everyone to sprinkle over cut of chunks for themselves – this would be great for a party or as an appetizer.

Otherwise proceed as follows: Roll the labneh into little balls the size of a walnut, either place them like this in a sterilized jar and cover with olive oil to preserve (this way it will keep for weeks) or roll them in the spice or herb of your choice and do likewise (if you are using fresh herbs then the cheese might not keep so very long).

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