Labneh is a wonderful Lebanese low calorie alternative to cream cheese, made from strained yogurt.
By Tamara Novacoviç
In Lebanon and other countries that ring the Eastern Mediterranean, Labneh is a mainstay of the breakfast table.It is slightly sour, has more delicate taste and aroma than classic cheese and is therefore prone to be seasoned with an abundance of various herbs, spices and/or nuts.
When I first heard the word labneh, I thought of it as some sort of fancy middle eastern concoction. Upon further research, however, I learned that labneh was no more than strained yogurt. Yes, it’s that simple to make: you put thick yogurt (Greek-style) into a muslin cloth over a fine sieve, put everything into a large bowl and let strain in the fridge for 1 or 2 days. The process kind of reminds me of Harry Potter stories. In the atmosphere of the latest and final Harry Potter movie, I endeavoured to watch all 8 movies of the Harry Potter saga in the last two days (haven’t watched any of them up until now) to see what’s all the buzz about. I didn’t want to stay uninformed. Harry Potter is, at last, obligatory literature in many schools today… Needless to say I liked it, especially the last three movies when it all becomes darker and less of a “children’s literature”. I like the fantasy genre anyway so I knew I had to watch this. So, the connection between labneh and Harry Potter is-in my mind-the following: you put something in the fridge and get something different the other day, without ever touching it.
Labneh is a suitable dip for pita or veggies. It can be served with olive oil and some spices or herbs (paprika, garlic, thyme, etc), with nuts… I find that it is also pretty tasty as a sandwich spread, or for anything else that needs a bit of zest! When you make labneh, it’s best to use thicker Greek-style yogurt.
- 3 cups (600 g) thick (Greek-style) yogurt
- 1 tsp salt
- various seasoning
- a cheesecloth
- a sieve
- a bowl
- Put a sieve onto a bowl and spread cheesecloth over it. Combine yogurt with salt. Put the mixture into the prepared sieve. Put it into a bowl and into the refrigerator. Let it drain for two days.
- Remove the drained yogurt from the cloth, shape it into little balls and roll the into various herbs, spices, nuts. You can also marinate it in a mixture of olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs. Or leave it as a spread, without shaping into balls.