I saw a mention of labneh when I was reading through Julie's flatbread recipe. It's one of her suggested accompaniments with the flatbread and when I saw it, I thought "what?" because I'd never heard of labneh before. It's essentially just strained yoghurt, aka yoghurt cheese. I have heard of the term 'yoghurt cheese' before and I don't know about you but it sounds kind of gross to me so I'm glad I can now call it labneh.
The principle behind this is pretty good. You let some Greek yoghurt sit on a seive over a long period of time until a significant portion of the water content has drained out. What remains is a thick, spreadable substance that has a more intense, tangy flavor than regular yoghurt.
This is hardly a recipe because it really just involves one process. You need to drain the yoghurt and a regular seive is probably too holey (if you use a drum seive, it'll work fine) so ideally, it should be lined with some cheesecloth. What's annoying is that I actually owned genuine cheesecloth, obtained from a cheese-making kit, but I think I threw it out when I moved house (cheese-making is definitely a 'for fun only' activity that is more trouble than it's worth). I used sterilized surgical gauze instead because that's easy for me to obtain at my dental practice but I know that's not for everyone. Google says you can use coffee filter paper, or any kind of fine, thin fabric (clean of course).
In theory you could use any quantity of Greek yoghurt and your end quantity of labneh will vary in accordance. Julie's original recipe calls for 6 cups but I think I had the remnants of a 500ml tub, so I just used that. The important thing is making sure that the volume of yoghurt you're intending to use fits in the equipment you're using to drain it.
- 6 cups of plain, Greek-style yoghurt (or however much you intend to use)
- 2 tsp salt (reduce the amount of salt according to how much yoghurt you use)
1. Stir the salt through the yoghurt.
2. Place the yoghurt into a drum seive or a regular seive lined with muslin, cheesecloth, coffee filter or whatever you have at your disposal, over a large bowl.
3. Let this sit in the fridge overnight, or for about 12 hours. After this time, much of the whey (watery liquid) will have strained out, leaving behind the thick and creamy labneh. For serving suggestions, read below.
I found the labneh to be extremely versatile because of its spreadable consistency and tangy flavor. My first use was as Julie suggested, teaming the labneh with her delicious flatbread. When used in Middle-Eastern style cuisine, it's traditionally topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sumac.
In order to make my platter look more complete, I picked up some olives and cherry tomatoes. Initially, it was purely for vanity, to create nicer looking photos. Once I starting eating though, I totally understood why that combination is so popular. Firstly, Marc HATES olives. That, even in full capitals might be an understatement. He and olives are mortal enemies. I am indifferent to olives and at times find them a nuisance so I luckily, the purchase and ingestion of olives hasn't been an issue for us. What I'm about to admit is akin to adultery in terms of how guilty I feel... but labneh and flatbread is SO MUCH BETTER with olives.
Now that I've got that out of my system, I'll quickly move onto other, less scandalous labneh applications. I found the flavor and consistency to ressemble sour cream so I teamed it up with my zucchini and carrot slices. Also delicious. I've heard of it used with honey too, for something sweet. Try that on banana bread perhaps.