As Barbara Massaad says in her recipe book “Mezze” – labneh is Lebanese “comfort food with a capital C”! Delicious and easy to make, it’s the perfect vehicle for Zejd’s beautiful extra virgin olive oil.
Labneh is hard to come by in UK supermarkets, but is nothing more complicated than strained yoghurt, with a bit of salt. You’ll need a piece of thin cloth, like muslin, which you can tie up and hang over a bowl somewhere cool. The longer you leave the yoghurt to strain, the harder the labneh will be. Choose your yoghurt carefully, make sure there is no added salt or flavourings. We use Straight Up Greek style yoghurt. The leftover whey, which is full of protein, can be used to make soda scones for breakfast using 225g of flour with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.
You can serve this as a “dip”, with a pool of Zejd’s extra virgin olive oil, and some toasted flat breads. In Lebanon it is eaten at breakfast time with za’atar mixed with some extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes dried mint is dusted over the top. You can always fold in some crushed garlic, as Claudia Roden suggests in her cookbook The Med or scatter over some sumac, or even a pinch of Aleppo pepper. So many ideas – you choose!
900g Greek yoghurt, plain
1 tsp fine sea salt
- Add the teaspoon of salt to the yoghurt and mix well.
- Sterilise a clean cloth by pouring over boiling water (or even better have a special piece of muslin which you keep for labneh)
- Line a bowl with the sterilised cloth and tip the yoghurt in.
- Bring the corners of the cloth together and tie a knot if you have enough material, or secure with a string. If you have somewhere to hang it, place the bowl underneath to catch the whey. The longer you leave it the firmer the labneh will become. Left for around 5 hours, the mixture will be soft and creamy; left overnight it will be thicker and firmer. If the weather’s hot, leave it in the fridge.
- Unfold the cloth and marvel at the beautiful creamy white ball! Spread on a flat plate and pour a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil.
You can also make labneh with some kitchen paper lining a sieve big enough to take the yoghurt. Leave the sieve over a bowl in the fridge if it is hot.