How to make labneh, the luscious Middle Eastern yoghurty spread - GulfToday

How to make labneh, the luscious Middle Eastern yoghurty spread

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Freshly made labneh is a canvas for your imagination. TNS

Like the great crested grebe is how we’ll dive into today’s topic, labneh. Oh, labneh, you cheese-ish yoghurt sequel, beloved art thou by Middle Eastern peeps from Aqaba to Zarqa, from Ta to Ur.

If you’ve never had labneh, one of two things is probably true: Either, you’re not of Middle Eastern stock, or, you are of Middle Eastern stock but there’s something definitely up, like, you’re lactose intolerant or you’re a vegan or you’re a werewolf and you only eat meat.


In all seriousness, if I see one more gaily festooned plate of quaggy hummus, I’m going to plotz.

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Spoon the yoghurt into the cheesecloth. TNS

Don’t get me wrong: I love hummus like buzzards love roadkill. But, come on, it’s a bit ubiquitous, innit? Dare to be different, I say: Here’s something that can serve the same function as hummus, but with a distinctive mouthfeel — rich, tart, full of umami — and adaptable to a planet-load of flavor profiles.

Now, finally, let’s look at how to make labneh. It’s so easy, even an Irish American like me or a reasonably intelligent chimp could do it and, quite frankly, I’d love to see that.

The ingredients for labneh are, literally, just yoghurt and salt. The equipment you’ll need are a colander or sieve, a bowl and some cheese cloth (or a clean dish towel).

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Tie or twist the corners of the cheesecloth together. TNS

Here’s what you do:

1. Set your colander inside the bowl and line it with several layers of cheesecloth, leaving the ends flapping o’er the side.

2. Stir the salt — roughly 1 teaspoon per quart — into the yoghurt, then scrape it all onto the cheesecloth.

3. Bring the corners of the cheesecloth up and tie or twist them together to make a handy yoghurt sack, like something Cow Santa would tote. Squeeze the sack, oh so gently, to lose some of the whey, then set it back into the colander inside the bowl and place the whole thing in the fridge.

4. After a day or two — the longer you leave it, the stiffer your labneh — remove the bowl from the fridge. Give the sack one last gentle squeeze, then scrape the labneh into a bowl.

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After 24-48 hours draining in the refrigerator, the yoghurt has become labneh. TNS


Prep: 5 minutes

Drain: overnight to 3 days

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Use yoghurt with no artificial ingredients or thickeners.

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups plain Greek yoghurt

Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed

1. Line a colander or mesh strainer with a couple layers of cheese cloth; set over a bowl large enough to hold it steady.

2. Stir salt into the yoghurt and scrape directly onto the cheesecloth. Bring cheesecloth corners together and twist or tie them together.

3. Set the bowl with the strainer with the cheesecloth with the yoghurt in the refrigerator for 24 to 72 hours. (The longer the drain time, the stiffer and drier the labneh.)

4. After draining, squeeze the bag gently to release any more liquid. Serve labneh immediately (see below) or store refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 or 4 days. Alternately, roll labneh into 2- to 3-inch balls and place on a sheet pan. Cover with a clean towel and refrigerate overnight to firm up a bit. After the labneh balls have firmed up, refrigerate them, submerged completely in extra-virgin olive oil in an airtight container. They will keep up to 2 months.

Tribune News Service

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