Quantity: about 1 cup (250 g)
Labneh, also known as Laban, the word for yogurt in Arabic, it is a sour, and creamy cheese that is ever-present on the Middle Eastern table. Its high content of fat makes it ideal for cooking – it will not curdle at high temperatures.
It can also be served on its own as an appetizer – sprinkled with some olive oil and herbs and accompanied by some pita bread – a real delight! A spoon or two of Labneh is a great contrasting sidekick to sweet and savory dishes.
A popular culinary tradition in the Middle East, Turkey, Greece, many Balkan countries, Georgia and Armenia is the Mezze (Greek: mezethes, Turkish: meze, Arabic: muqabbilat). The word and many of the dishes are of Persian origin, where “maze” means “snack”. It is the eastern Mediterranean version of the Spanish “tapas”, a selection of small dishes taken as an appetizer or, if served in a wide variety, as a whole meal.
If you do not have access to Labneh, you can easily make your own:
- Add salt to Greek yogurt, or European-style thick yogurt and whisk it to a smooth consistency. Use about 1/3 teaspoon salt for 1 1/2 cup (375 g) yogurt.
- Put a sterile cloth in a strainer over a large pot and pour in the salted yogurt.
- Let the whey strain through the cloth for about 24 hours. Make sure the pot is deep enough so the whey does not reach the bottom of the strainer. A more efficient way is to tie up the four corners of the cloth and suspend it over the pot. The weight of the yogurt will extract the whey much better.
- Remove the cloth and – voilà – there is the Labneh!
Labneh should be kept under refrigeration and consumed within a week after preparation.
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