Baked Rhubarb with Sweet Labneh
I am slightly obsessive about labneh. I like it on its own, spread on a plate, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with za’atar and chilli flakes and served with a warm pitta. I also have it with grilled vegetables or dotted in a fresh tomato and cucumber salad. I serve it with roasted lamb cutlets or fried fish and even as a dessert, sweetened with icing sugar and orange blossom syrup and accompanied by baked fruit.
To those of you who haven’t been following my pontificating about the merits of strained yoghurt – which is essentially what labneh is – I warmly invite you to join the fan club. Super-popular around the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean, you can buy it from many Arab grocers’, either as small white balls marinated in olive oil, to add to savoury dishes, or as a thick and creamy yoghurt sold at the cheese counter or in chilled tubs.
The best, though, is to make your own by draining the yoghurt overnight to reach a rich and creamy texture (although 4–6 hours will just about do). Squeeze the yoghurt bundle a couple of times while it’s draining to speed up the process. Plain Greek yoghurt will work well if that’s easier: the finished dish won’t be as rich but it will still be wonderfully fresh.
|100ml||muscat (or another dessert wine)|
|½||vanilla pod, split lengthways, seeds scraped|
|1||lemon, rind shaved in strips from half, zest grated from the other half|
|20g||unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped|
You will need: a clean muslin or J-cloth, and string or an elastic band.
Put the yoghurt in a medium bowl with the icing sugar and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Mix well and transfer to the middle of a clean muslin or J-cloth. Tie into a bundle using an elastic band or string and hang it over a bowl in the fridge for up to 18 hours, squeezing the bundle from time to time.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC Fan/Gas Mark 6.
Cut the rhubarb into 6cm lengths and mix with the muscat, caster sugar, vanilla pod and seeds and lemon strips. Put in an ovenproof dish just large enough to accommodate the rhubarb snugly. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but not mushy. Set aside to cool.
Just before serving, take the strained yoghurt from the fridge and give it a good squeeze to release any extra water. Remove from the cloth and place in a bowl. Stir in the grated lemon zest and spoon into serving dishes.
Spoon the rhubarb on top with some of the cooking juices and sprinkle over the pistachios.