Labneh has become a little trendy recently as an ‘ethnic’ food. Really all it means is that people have figured out they can charge a premium for something that most Southern European, North African and Middle Eastern cultures have made for eons is actually very delicious and easy to make. Seriously, take yoghurt, mix in a little salt and strain.
Labneh or as it shall henceforth be known, LABneh (it was meant to be – clearly), has so many uses that I am just discovering, you could use it somewhat like cream cheese as a spread or a base for dips, otherwise use it instead of sour cream or even rolled into balls a bit like mozzarella. LABneh retains its tangy yoghurt flavour, but it becomes more interesting.
Makes about a third to half the quantity of yoghurt you use
Special equipment: muslin (source for a few dollars/metre from fabric shops
500g of yoghurt (for around 250g of labneh)
½tsp of salt per 500g yoghurt
Firstly some notes:
You can use any plain yoghurt: low fat, normal, Greek. Using lower fat yoghurt will yield a lower fat labneh, but you will lose more whey and get less volume of labneh.
The liquid that drains off is whey. This can be used in making bread instead of water, it makes bread with more complex flavours, a little sourdough-ish.
Muslin is cheap from fabric shops. Half a metre is plenty, which you should get for about $6/m. Fold your muslin to be 3 or 4 layers.
Mix the salt through the yoghurt.
Make sure your equipment is very clean, I like to soak my muslin in boiling water for a few minutes. Set up your straining system: I place a small colander over a bowl and then place the muslin on top. Pour the yoghurt into the muslin.
Wrap the muslin around the yoghurt and then place a small weight on top to help the whey on its way. Rest the straining yoghurt in the fridge for 8 to 48 hours. The longer it is left the firmer the final labneh, overnight makes a perfect lunchtime sandwich spread consistency.
I like to serve LABneh sprinkled with Za’atar or Dukkah and a drizzle of olive oil with fresh pita bread. You will greatly impress guests with your “fancy ethnic food” when they drop by for wine and cheese.