Labneh with Black Olives and Mint
Labneh is a staple you'll find throughout the Middle East. It Looks very much like a soft cheese but is actually a creamy strained yoghurt. Where on a British table you might have a jar of mayonnaise, in Lebanon you'll find labneh serving almost the same role. Now of course there are different opinions on how to make it, and the thing that always impresses me, when I eat it at friends' houses, is how small variations affect the flavour.
|For the labneh:|
|500ml||cow's, goat's or sheep's milk yoghurt|
|salt to taste|
|a handful||of black olives, pitted and chopped|
|chopped fresh mint|
To make the labneh:
Take a medium sieve of colander big enough to hold the yoghurt but with a bit of depth to it. Sit it over a bowl that will catch the whey that drains from it. Wet and then wring out muslin or a tea towel so that it's damp, and press it inside the mesh of the sieve.
Some cooks like to salt the labneh at this point - I don't - but if you like, just stir a little salt in with the yoghurt to taste, remembering that it will intensify in flavour as it drains. Pour the yoghurt into the cloth and then leave it undisturbed in the fridge overnight. At first you migh think that it's draining so slowly that nothing is happening but have faith. Overnight the liquid will drip away and leave a condenses yoghurt that's much thicker, smoother and cheese-like. Serve it right away or store in the fridge, covered for up to a week.
To make Labneh with black olives and mint:
Simply stir chopped pitted olives through some labneh, spoon into a bowl and top with more olives, a sprinkling of chopped fresh mint and a drizzle of olive oil. Really the proportions are up to you but I like it so that there are a few pieces of olive in every spoonful without it overpowering the creaminess of the labneh.