“The ultimate aim of civility and good manners is to please: to please one’s guest or to please one’s host. To this end one uses the rules laid down by tradition: of welcome, generosity, affability, cheerfulness and consideration for others. People entertain warmly and joyously. To persuade a friend to stay for lunch is a triumph and a precious honour. To entertain many together is to honor them all mutually. It is equally an honour to be a guest.”
Claudia Roden, food writer.
‘A Book of Middle Eastern Food’ (1968)
The sense of having to please ones host or please one’s guest may seem a little old fashioned in today’s ballsy society , but i like starting off from that point of view. We are social creatures and sharing food gives us a comfortable space to share our woes, tales from the week and a chance to spend time sitting around a table and catching up with each other….
“The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way.”
― Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Ajq’ij of the Eagle Clan
In the spirit of love and sharing, i’m going to share with you a really simple recipe that you can all do at home, and today it is for Labneh (also known as labni, lebni or zabedi) or yoghurt cheese – it is yoghurt which has been strained in a cloth or paper bag or filter to remove the whey, giving a consistency between that of yoghurt and cheese, while preserving yoghurt’s distinctive sour taste. There are many variations across the middle east and greece/cyprus.
It is either served fresh or made into balls and stored in olive oil. In the West Bank, Gaza and amongst Israeli Arabs and the Palestinian Diaspora, labneh is a common breakfast food typically eaten with Arabic flat bread, olive oil and often mint. In Lebanon, labneh is most commonly made of cows’ milk, which is available all year; it is also made from goats’ milk from April to September. It is either eaten alone or used as a filling for pita sandwiches. It can also be served as a light dish at dinner. The popular Lebanese garlic sauce is made of labneh and garlic. Labneh is used as a spread on pita bread or Lebanese Marouq bread. In Syria it is eaten for breakfast with olive oil, cheese, olives and bread.
Making Labneh (its very simple)
1. First choose what type of yoghurt you would like to use – you can choose what ever variety you like to start with – low-fat or full-fat, cow, goat or sheep’s milk, according to taste or lactose tolerance. Using lower fat yoghurt will yield a lower fat labneh, but you will lose more whey and get less volume of labneh. Its up to you to choose the amount of yoghurt you want to use but remember it makes about a third to half the quantity of the yoghurt you use.
2. You now need to salt it – you use 1/2 teaspoon of salt per 500 g of yoghurt. Mix the salt throughout the yoghurt.
3. You will need a length of muslim, folded over to 3 or 4 layers. Its important for it to be clean so maybe soak it in boiling water for a few minutes. Some people pour the yoghurt mix into a colander which has been put over a bowl, some people hang it up over a bucket/bowl/sink – its up to you!
Wrap the muslin around the yoghurt and then place a small weight on top to help the whey on its way. The longer it is left the firmer the final labneh, overnight makes a perfect lunchtime sandwich spread consistency. It can be left from 8 hours to 48 hours..again this is space for you to experiment. Remember a recipe is not a static thing but is there for you to make your own.
X (a note) – The liquid that drains off is whey. This can be used in making bread instead of water, it makes bread with more complex flavours, a little sourdough-ish. see –http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/7921/using-whey-liquid-substitute
4. Now comes the exciting bit – how do you want to customise your labneh. The following pictures are all links to different spins on labneh ….
I hope this gives you some ideas of a really simple recipe that you can do at home and then customise with your own ingredients.
Happy labneh making! – keri – Humble Cottage x