Its Wednesday and today its all about “Labneh”

“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 scene from the Middle East Feast. - Guy Albertelli

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.

Strained yogurt with olive oil.

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.

Fresh labneh with dried mint and olive oilLabnehCLICK PIC FOR RECIPE ON LABNEH BALLS 

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 ….

Labneh with olives
Yotam Ottolenghi’s – Labneh with olives, pistachios and oregano
Labneh balls with different spice coatings on them
Labneh preserved under thyme & garlic scented olive oil
Labneh with pomegranate, sprouted seeds and shoots recipe
Sweet Yoghurt Cheese with Honey, Figs and Pistachios

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

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3 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Lady Philospher's Blog and commented:
    When I lived in Jerusalem, my friend Yoram sent me to the middle of no-where to get fresh Goat Yogurt. I was on a bus with chickens flying, goats, soup to nuts! Somehow no one even spoke Hebrew on this bus and my 5 gallon yogurt slipped out of my greased with olive oil palms. I am surprised I did not milk the goat myself , this is how homespinning it all was. I would not milk a goat. Oh no, your not gonna make me! Said with my true Amy Winehouse swagger. But, I did at 18 ride a turquoise bus w: broken windows have the giant plastic jar roll down to the driver and back up again and back down visa versa before I caught it, nearly killing a few chickens. Come to think about it? It may have affected the cheese later! Goat butter? Yikes! I cannot remember the small town I went to visit to forage? None the less, when I returned back to Jerusalem we began this brief but with brevity process of making deeelicious cheese just like this but sorry, it was even better of course from the Chicken voodoo dancing. I wish I could have some now!

    • I love this story! Some of my best travelling stories have been on buses, hurtling through the Andes with random bus neighbours baby’s bobbing on my lap, stray chickens sitting atop of my head making the ladies of Ascot seethe with jealousy. And the tastiest of food gets embodied with the memories from when you first experienced it…there are so many lost and found secret ingredients in the best food – heightened emotions, laughter, friendship, strangers, stories – thanks for sharing. x

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