Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Labneh (Yogurt Cheese)



What if I told you that making your own cheese at home was easy, affordable and better than anything you could go out and buy? Not to mention, as creamy and delicious as labneh is, it has only a modest fraction of the fat you'd find in cream cheese or crème fraîche. Essentially, labneh is strained yogurt. The water and whey is drained from the yogurt creating a cheesy, creamy product. The flavour is similar to cream cheese with the slight tang of yogurt. The consistency is thick, soft and luxurious. All you need to make it is yogurt and a little sea or kosher salt. 

Labneh comes from parts of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It can be eaten as a dip for bread, lavash and vegetables. You can add a little sugar and eat with any fruit you like. You could add a little to hummus or baba ganoush to add tremendous texture. You could even use it as a spread for sandwiches and bagels. The possibilities are endless. You can use sheep milk if you prefer too.

This was my first time making it and I am sure it will become a staple. I kept thinking it would be the perfect base for a nice tzatziki sauce. If you're not new to the blog, you'll likely know that I love yogurt and its versatility.

This technique is "easy as piss" (as my Aussie friends would say). The only pressing part is you need a little patience. The yogurt has to drain in the fridge for a bare minimum of 12 hours. Overnight or 24 hours is best. I saw a few recipes where it was left to strain for over 2 days. The longer you let it strain, the thicker it will be. 




This is the brand of yogurt that I used for this batch. It's one of my favourites and it's very easy to find in the Toronto area. You can use whatever yogurt suits you. I would only recommend that you choose a yogurt that is thick to begin with and doesn't have a lot of stuff in it. This brand of yogurt is only milk, cream and bacterial culture. You don't want to use yogurt with any fillers or artificial stuff in it. And yes, it must be plain yogurt.


 
  
Start by seasoning your yogurt. I used about a cup and a half of yogurt and just under a teaspoon of sea salt. You can make as much or as little as you want. You may prefer your cheese to be more or less salty. Taste and adjust to suit your preference.





Take a clean bowl and place a colander in it. It should fit nicely. Line the colander with 2-3 layers of cheesecloth or 1 layer of muslin. 



 Pour the seasoned yogurt evenly into the lined colander.



Fold the corners of the cheesecloth to seal the yogurt. Some people put it in the fridge just like this to strain. Personally, I prefer to cover it, just to be safe. You can use foil, plastic wrap or even just a plate for that job.





Here is another shot just before going into the fridge. You can already see the water and whey draining out of the yogurt.





After 24 hours, this is how much liquid had accumulated. Of course, this will vary depending on the yogurt you use and how long you choose to strain it. 




The photo quality on this shot is not the greatest but it gives you an idea of the texture when it's done. It's amazing, guys. You have to try this. Simple as that. It's fantastic just like this but you could add lemon, herbs, spices, whatever you want and turn it into something fantastic. I chose to make a pita bread and vegetable platter with my labneh. Here is a classic, Middle Eastern way of presenting it.


  

Spread the labneh into a circle on a serving plate (here I just used the base of my tagine). Using the back of a spoon, spread the labneh around to create a well in the center. Save a little bit of labneh aside to create a dollop in the middle of the well.






Then slowly drizzle olive oil into the well, creating a moat around the dollop. This adds another dimension of flavour and texture for the perfect dip. 





I sprinkled some dried mint and paprika over the labneh and placed a kalamata olive in the center of the dollop. You can get really creative here. You could garnish with a lemon wedge, fresh herbs, dried fruit, etc... Have fun with this one. 




Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. I'd love to hear about how your own labneh turned out and what you did to make it your own.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone and their families a happy Ramadan. Sorry that it happened to be the first day of the fast that I got to post this (damn internet issues). I tried my best, ladies and gentlemen.



PS: You can discard the liquid that drained out of the yogurt when you're done, but keep in mind that it has whey in it so it is full of good carbohydrates and protein. Add some to a healthy shake for breakfast or after a good work out. If this sounds like a good idea but you are concerned about the salt, you could always season the yogurt after it's drained to avoid putting any in the liquid. 

1 comment:

  1. Find it much easier to strain using bags from dairy tech supplier www.precisioncut.org.uk/store

    ReplyDelete