Monday, 15 June 2009

Homemade labneh (yoghurt cheese).

By Julie, Towards Sustainability

Homemade labneh - essentially a tangy cream cheese - is so incredibly easy to make, you'll never buy cream cheese again! It's also very versatile; it can be used many ways in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Step 1:
Make or obtain some fresh plain yoghurt (the quantity doesn't matter).

Step 2:
Line a sieve or colander with a very clean open-weave cloth such as muslin, cheesecloth, or an unused Chux-type cloth (I used a clean dishcloth saved for that purpose in the photos). Pour the yoghurt into the cloth and place the sieve or colander over a bowl.

Step 3:
Wrap the cloth over the top of the yoghurt and place a saucer on top, and a weight (such as a jar) on top to speed the straining process, and place in the refrigerator.

Step 4:
After around 24 hours (sooner or later, depending on how much yoghurt you used and how dry you want the cheese), remove the weight and wrapping and tip the cheese out into a clean bowl. Ta da: basic labneh!

Note: The yellowish liquid left in the draining bowl is whey - save it for use in cooking (substitute it for buttermilk for example) or for making lacto-fermented vegetables. It can also be frozen for several months.

Now that you have your labneh, you can dress it up or down anyway you like!

Try using it as a dip: mix in chopped fresh herbs for example (in the photo below I've added chives and parsley) or diced cucumber, crushed garlic, lemon juice, chopped mint and salt and pepper to make a variation on the traditional Tzatziki dip.

You could leave it plain and drizzle it with sweet chilli sauce, a la Sweet Chilly Philly.

Or use as a sweet spread: add honey and cinnamon (orange zest is nice too) and spread on toasted fresh bread (or Gavin's bread rolls). Or mix in a little of your favourite jam or pureed berries.

How about draining it until it is very dry, add chopped herbs and roll it into walnut-sized balls. Eat fresh or store in a jar in the refrigerator covered with olive oil to use on a mezze plate. As a variation, omit the herbs and roll the balls in your favourite Middle Eastern spice mix, Dukkah (yum!) or sesame seeds.

These are just the tip of the iceburg, so to speak, as you can see, it's very quick, easy and delish. If you use organic yoghurt or make it yourself, it won't contain any chemical nasties either, which a bonus.

If you already make labneh, what's your favourite way to eat it? I'm always looking for new variations!