GUIDE TO LABNEH YOGHURT

Dish - - Contents - Words — JULIE BIUSO Pho­tog­ra­phy — JOSH GRIGGS

Julie Biuso shares how to make your own labneh, which can served as a snack, a sauce, a dress­ing, a dip, a spread, or a dessert, flavoured to suit.

Labneh, es­sen­tially yoghurt drained of its whey, can be served as a snack, a sauce, a dress­ing, a dip, a spread, or a dessert, flavoured to suit.

Smooth but not cloy­ing, creamy though not at all rich, and lemony fresh, labneh, a soft yoghurt cheese, is a ver­sa­tile prod­uct to have on hand. Turn it into a quick snack, or use it to smooth out a sauce, to add tex­ture to a dress­ing, to soften a salty or over-spiced dish, or to pro­vide a creamy mouth-feel to a stew, soup or sauce with­out bump­ing up the calo­ries. It’s eas­ily made. Start with whole milk and make your own yoghurt, or buy a good brand of nat­u­ral unsweet­ened gela­tine-free full­fat yoghurt. Then set about strain­ing it. The yoghurt can be strained through clean muslin, or a cof­fee fil­ter or a dou­ble thick­ness of pa­per tow­els. The best is muslin. A cof­fee fil­ter holds only a small amount, and pa­per tow­els, while good for a short drain­ing, can split.

First, beat yoghurt with a lit­tle salt in a bowl un­til smooth: I use 4½ cups of yoghurt to

1 tea­spoon of salt. Line a sieve with muslin and set sieve over a bowl large enough to con­tain it but deep enough so the yoghurt will not be sit­ting in the strained whey as it ac­cu­mu­lates. (The yoghurt will lose at least a third of its vol­ume dur­ing strain­ing; you can pour it off from time to time.) Tip in yoghurt. Fold the sides of the muslin over the sur­face of the yoghurt to avoid liq­uid drip­ping from it as it be­comes sat­u­rated. If us­ing pa­per tow­els, en­sure the edges of the pa­per are not hang­ing over the side of the bowl for the same rea­son, then loosely drape the top of the bowl with plas­tic food wrap. Re­frig­er­ate.

WHEY TO GO

The flavour of the yoghurt be­comes more lemony and the tex­ture firmer and more vel­vety the longer it drains. You can use it at any point dur­ing the drain­ing pe­riod.

You will no­tice whey ac­cu­mu­lat­ing af­ter 30 min­utes. At this point, what you have is a slightly thicker yoghurt. Nice. If you add a spoon­ful along­side a slice of tart or cake, it won’t weep.

AF­TER 12 HOURS

Af­ter 12 hours a lot of whey will have ac­cu­mu­lated. The yoghurt at this point is thick and creamy, more lus­cious than reg­u­lar yoghurt, and can be used to ac­com­pany desserts, or ce­real and baked fruit, that sort of thing. It can also be added to a dress­ing to make it creamy and to give body. A dol­lop added on top of a soup will hold its shape.

AF­TER 24 HOURS

Af­ter 24 hours the yoghurt is still los­ing whey and is be­com­ing firmer. It is now of­fi­cially labneh and can be used as a soft spread.

AF­TER 48 HOURS

Af­ter 48 hours you will have a thick, glossy labneh that can be used as a spread, a dip or a dessert. Whip in what­ever flavour­ings you fancy. Or use two spoons to shape into blobs to serve along­side sweet or savoury items.

AF­TER 72 HOURS

Af­ter 72 hours the yoghurt is firm enough to care­fully shape into small balls or ovals. Tra­di­tion­ally, labneh balls are trans­ferred to a clean jar and cov­ered in olive oil and used as a mezze. I rec­om­mend re­frig­er­at­ing them on a tray for 24 hours be­fore putting them in oil, to dry the sur­face and to en­sure they will not ex­ude any more whey. The balls can also be rolled in toasted coarsely ground spices or chopped herbs or nuts and served as a mezze with crusty bread or flat­breads, or in­cluded on a cheese­board.

TRY: Use the drained whey in bak­ing such as scones, bread, muffins and cakes – it makes them nice and light – or use in smooth­ies or soups. The drained whey will keep for an ex­tra cou­ple of days af­ter the labneh is fully drained. TRY: Af­ter 72 hours … Shape labneh into small balls. Drop into a mound of toasted des­ic­cated co­conut, chopped wal­nuts and a dust­ing of co­coa. Serve on top of roasted fruit or serve with fried ba­nanas or pineap­ple flamed in rum.

TRY: Af­ter 48 hours … Put spoon­fuls of labneh along­side char­grilled lamb cut­lets and sprin­kle with dukkah, sumac or za’atar. Serve with fried egg­plant and a Greek-style cos salad. TRY: Af­ter 24 hours … Whip fresh vanilla seeds and a lit­tle co­conut or brown sugar or maple syrup into drained yoghurt and serve with sea­sonal fruits roasted with white wine, fresh bay leaves and rose­mary sprigs and a sprin­kling of sugar. Or pud­dle the top with EVOO, strew with fresh herbs and serve with char­grilled veg­eta­bles and flat­breads. TRY: Af­ter 12 hours ... Sprin­kle labneh with dukkah, lemon zest, chopped herbs and oil for a tasty dip.

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