Friday, March 28, 2008

Labneh (or labnah/labna) - Yogurt Cheese

I wanted to share with you one of the things I made for my farm holiday last weekend, since I couldn’t have you all with me. Which is a shame because what a wonderful holiday that would have been huh? :) A bunch of food loving individuals filling their tummies and then talking incessantly about it! This way, I can at least share some of what I ate…

I put together a spread of different meze for our Greek inspired dinner, and although I’d like to share recipes for each dish, most were done based on feel and whim…so no exact quantities for now. This, however, is beyond simple to do and a great thing to have in your appetizer tray (or anywhere else for that matter). And if you love yogurt as much as I do, I’m sure you will always have extra portions with which to make this.

Labneh (or labnah/labna), also called Arab Yogurt Cheese, is plain/natural yogurt strained of its whey. The longer you strain it the thicker it will be. It is criminally simple to make…all you need is good yogurt, some salt, a cheesecloth, a strainer, and some patience. After exerting as much effort as you would to, say, take a nap or decide what top to wear, you will have a creamy “yogurt cheese” (like a light, fresh cream cheese with the yogurt’s distinct sour note) to do with as you please!

Although simple, I still perused a bunch of recipes before proceeding. I am just a little geek that way. There was one in my copy of The Arab Table by May Bsisu (nice book with great explanations and lists of Arab ingredients!) and I found two recipes from Donna Hay! Doesn’t she just think of everything? ;) One recipe comes from her book Entertaining (with lemon thyme and chili) and the other come from her magazine issue # 35*** (with oregano and black peppercorns).

It’s quite basic so I’ll just give the main guidelines (no recipe really) I used based on the different recipes and you can improvise depending on the flavors you like.

  • About 1 teaspoon salt for every 2 cups plain yogurt
  • Herbs and spices that you like
  • Olive oil

- Mix the yogurt and salt together. You can add flavor at two points – either mix in your spices/herbs with the yogurt now, or add them to the oil later.
- Line a sieve with fine muslin/cheesecloth and place over a deep bowl (you don’t want your yogurt to come in contact with the liquid that has been drained). Place the yogurt mixture into the sieve. Cover the lot and place in the fridge to drain – this can be anywhere from 6 hours to 5 days! The longer it drains the thicker it will be.
- After it has drained to the consistency you like, you can scoop them up by tablespoons and form into balls (this is what Donna does). Place balls in a jar and, if you didn’t add them to the yogurt in the beginning, toss in the herbs/spices, then cover with olive oil. Store in the fridge.
- Another way of forming the cheese (May’s method) is to press onto a plate with the back of a spoon, causing little indentations in the cheese (like how hummus is often served). Drizzle olive oil into the indentations and sprinkle za'atar or dried mint (again c/o May) all over the cheese.

You could also have this for breakfast! See the breakfast spread Barbara put together with labneh.

***It was part of a terrific feature called “a dairymaid’s tale” which included recipes on how to make your own ricotta, curd cheese, clotted cream, and yogurt! Absolutely gorgeous white-on-white-on-white food styling too!


Manggy said...

I'm really scouring my recollections to try to remember where I've seen labneh (in person) before! I must try this soon. I wonder what it would taste like with roasted garlic mash swirled into it.

(I know that lighting!! It's the lighting of a peaceful, crickety night in the province!! :)

Dee said...

Hi joey! Im enjoying your farm posts :) This is so simple to make and looks gorgeous too! Im wondering, did you use the Lemnos brand of yogurt? And what did you eat/serve it with?

Barbara said...

Fabulous Joey. Wouldn't it be fun to have a bunch of bloggers holiday together on a farm?

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Yum! With Za'atar and olive oil, I bet it tastes wonderful! Thanks for the idea!



Patricia Scarpin said...

She does think of everything, Joey! :)
I have been thinking of making one of those cheeses ever since I got the magazine - just need to buy the proper fabric. Ricotta was probably going to be the first try, but after seeing your post I have changed my mind... ;)

Marvin said...

Looks great, joey! What was the consistency like of the finished cheese? Mmmm, I bet it would be good with rosemary.

LyB said...

I so love the kind of recipe that can be adapted to taste and whim! I can just imagine the texture of this, yummy! Eating and talking incessantly about food on a farm sounds like the perfect holiday, sign me up! ;)

zlamushka said...

I am surprised you make labneh as well. I love making little yoghurt balls and pickle them with lots of chilies, bay leaves and black peppercorns.
Good job, looking forward to more of lebneh recipes.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Manggy! The roasted garlic sounds good! I’ll try that next time :) As for the lighting, I’m sorry to disappoint but it’s not “peaceful, crickety night in the province” light (although I do wish it was!) but high-noon in my apartment in the city – the time of the day when the sun is directly above my building, hence very little light streaming through my window…weird huh? :)

Hi Dee! Glad you are enjoying the posts :) Yes! I used Lemnos…it is my favorite by far…so thick and wonderful :) I served the labneh with pita bread alongside other dips/spreads like hummus and melizanosalata, and the marinated olives.

Thanks Barbara! Yes, a holiday like that would be an absolute blast!

Hi Rosa! I still have to try it with the za’atar myself but I’m sure it’ll be delicious!

Hi Patricia! Loved that feature….ricotta will be my next! :)

Hi Marvin! It’s like a light ricotta in texture :) I’m sure it will be yummy with rosemary :)

Hi Lyb! Doesn’t it? We could eat, talk about food, eat some more, then nap! Then wake up and eat some more! :) Heehee :)

Hi Zlamushka! I love yogurt so when I saw this recipe I had to make it! It’s wonderful! Thanks for the tips :)

Nikki & David Goldbeck said...

Great to see you writing about yogurt cheese. We like it so much me wrotea cookbook to expand its uses. Yogurt cheese (or YoChee) is a wonderful versatile ingredient you can make at home to improve your own yogurt. It has substantial health and taste benefits ( a creamy food which is low or no fat plus high protein and calcium). You might want to take a look at,” Eat Well the YoChee Way” a guide and cookbook to this important food. It really expands the use of yogurt cheese to desserts, main courses and much more. Also nutritional content. and the website contains a free yogurt cheese how- to slide show, nutrition information and free recipes.

maybahay said...

a girl after my own heart. i've been meaning to make labnehs but my little girl always end up finishing our yogurts by dipping everything in it. this is also smashing with dukkah.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Nikki and David! Thanks for visiting my site :) I also took a look at! Lot's of yogurt cheese recipes there...I want to try a couple of them out already!

Hi Maybahay! Ooh! I'm sure it'll be good with dukkah too :) It's hard not to finish all the yogurt in the house...heehee :)

coco said...

Oh this sounds so good. Will try this soon. Had heard of it but didn't know it would be this simple. Thanks! :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Coco! Yes, it really is this simple! Another reason I love it :)

christine said...

Oooh I wanna try making this too! Thanks for the idea. :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Nens! Glas to be of service! :)

Anonymous said...

Yum. Tried it and mixed roasted garlic and thing strips of cucumber into the labneh. Double yum.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anonymous! That does sound extremely yummy with the roasted garlic and cucumber! Will remember that for next time! :)

fizzleout said...

I tasted some delicious labna at a food and wine festival over the weekend that had fennel seeds sprinkled over it. It was so amazing but is fantastic to know that it is so easy to make!

Becstar said...

I make my own yoghurt and made greek yughurt for the first time last night, I think I'll take it further next time and make some Labneh!

Anonymous said...

I picked up a container "Old Country Style" Labna at the ethnic grocers last week... Umm,Yumm!
I'd never heard of it before, and have been using it in place of brie on canapes: multi-seed crackers, a dab of labna (as glue!) and smoked herring. Plus (or not) a piece of avocado: delightful bites!