Our Optional Monthly Community Challenge at I Heart Cooking Clubs this month is the making and using of labneh (a strained yoghurt cheese, popular in the Middle East), a la Ottolenghi.
Well, because I procrastinate so much, I've managed by the skin of my teeth to get the making of labneh nailed by the end of the month ... using it, other than just smearing it on a cracker (which should not, I might add, be underrated), not so much.
I had all good intentions for using my labneh in the same way that Zosia from Are You Cooking? did in this Couscous & Mograbieh Salad with Oven Dried Tomatoes and Labneh, from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. This would have been the perfect use for some of the slow roasted tomatoes I have stashed in the freezer. However, I left making my labneh a bit later than intended, and then it took longer to strain than I anticipated (when the recipe says it takes 24-36 hours, I always think mine will be the 24 hour one - in actual fact mine took a full 48 hours to reach the desired consistency). So that isn't going to happen ... or not this week, anyway.
I could have gone the awesomely delicous-looking route my lovely IHCC co-host, Deb from Kahakai Kitchen, took and smothered my labneh in a topping of kalamata olives and pistachio nuts, and indeed that may well be the way in which much of my labneh meets its final fate. But tonight I had a big dinner planned, and I rather feared that I could easily end up making a meal of a pre-dinner snack such as this, and then what to do with that big dinner?!
Some of my labneh will almost certainly go into a salad for my lunch tomorrow - I'm thinking of a take on this Grilled Pineapple and Gorgonzola Salad that my friend, Mairi from Toast, made a while back, using some rocket and walnuts and swapping the gorgonzola out for the labneh. However, as I'm likely to be throwing that together first thing in the morning before I rush out the door, a pretty photo seems unlikely.
So tonight I'm going to leave you with just the labneh, and hope that you find one of those suggestions inspiring. There are also plenty of other recipes in all of Ottolenghi's books using this wonderful ingredient, so I hope you'll give this a try. It could not possibly be simpler to make and, if like me, you're not ready to use it straight away, simply roll into balls and pop into a jar full of olive oil - it will keep for weeks.
Adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
2 cups unsweetened Greek yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl mix the yoghurt and salt together until the salt is thoroughly combined.
Line a sieve with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth (or even a paper towel will do), set the sieve over a bowl, and pour the yoghurt into the cloth. Bring up the edges of the cloth and tie into a bundle around the yoghurt with a piece of string.
Place in the fridge and leave to strain for 24 to 48 hours. By this stage, almost all the liquid will have drained away, and the yoghurt will be the consistency of thick cream cheese.
The labneh can be used straight away as a spread, or stored in olive oil for later use. Roll the labneh into small balls. Pour some olive oil into a sterilised jar, then carefully lower in a few of the labneh balls, add some more olive oil, then more labneh balls. Continue layering in this way until all the labneh balls are fully immersed in oil. Store at room temperature in a cool dark place - will keep for several weeks.
When you're ready to use the labneh, remove the balls from the oil, roll in a mixture of dried mint and freshly ground black pepper, and serve in salads, or as part of a mezze platter, or just with a couple of crackers.
The resulting cheese has a delicious, delicate, citrusy/yoghurty tang, and the dried mint is the perfect complement to it. Although there are a couple of days involved in making this, most of that time it's just taking care of itself in the fridge. The actual effort you have to put in is about 5 to 10 minutes max, and results in a great store cupboard ingredient to have on hand. Definitely making this again.
If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...
... or check out Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and Ottolenghi's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.
I'll also be sharing this post at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, and very amusing, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, at Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollam, and at My Meatless Mondays hosted by Chaya at My Sweet and Savory.