Sweet or savoury, labneh is a doddle to make. My children like helping to roll this very thick strained yoghurt into little balls each the size of a walnut, to serve either steeped in olive oil and garlic to smear on flatbreads, or drenched in icing sugar to serve with soft fruit as a pudding.
- ½ tsp salt
- 500g plain yoghurt (if not homemade, use a thick Greek yoghurt)
1. Place a sieve over a bowl and line it with a double layer of clean cheesecloth or soft cotton fabric.
2. Stir the salt into the yoghurt, then pour the yoghurt into the centre of the cheesecloth. Pull up the four corners of the cheesecloth and tie them with string to make a bag, then suspend the bag over the bowl overnight to allow the whey to drain out. If your kitchen is cold enough, you can drain the yoghurt outside the fridge; otherwise leave it in the fridge. The longer you leave the labneh, the firmer it will become – after 12 hours it should be the consistency of cream cheese.
3. Remove from the cheesecloth and store the labneh, covered, in the fridge until needed.
4. To make the labneh balls, first ensure the labneh is firm enough to use a small spoon to scoop out little walnut-sized balls. Roll them between your hands to shape them, then place the balls on a clean cloth-lined tray to soak up any excess moisture.
5. Once the balls are made, I like to marinate them in a little olive oil (4 tablespoons for this quantity), some dried oregano or fresh thyme leaves (about 1 tablespoon), the zest of 1 lemon, and a few chilli flakes (¼ teaspoon). Store in the fridge.
VARIATION: SWEET LABNEH Follow the recipe above, omitting the salt, and mix 50g of icing sugar into the yoghurt before straining. Serve with poached fruits (plums or rhubarb are nice), or with a spoonful of honey and alongside some oat cakes. Better still, add 3 tablespoons of rose water with the icing sugar and serve the sweet rose labneh with strawberries or raspberries in the summer.