Welcome to 2019, I wish you all well and I hope it holds everything good for you.
I did have a momentary panic as I sat down at the computer this morning, wondering if I would even remember how to open this blog — it feels it has been a long time since I have sat myself down and written anything, being busy and being creative it would seem do not go hand in hand for me. Luckily life seems to be in some sort of order now (an optimistic view of my normal state of semi controlled chaos) and with the madness of Christmas behind me I am looking forward to some slightly more considered and creative eating and cooking.
As always for me it is condiments that star in my cooking and the main player the last few weeks has been strained yoghurt called Labna or Labneh. Labna is a Middle Eastern staple made by straining yoghurt to remove excess whey and resulting in a thickened slightly sour spread. Inspired by both some delicious Turkish eggs eaten at a local cafe, and a recipe from Ottolinghi s new book – Simple – for “Hot charred cherry tomatoes with cold yoghurt”. I was ready to make again that staple I have talked of before Labna/Labnah. While both these recipes use greek yoghurt I wanted to make my own version of this thickened greek style yoghurt in order to control the thickness.
With Labna you can choose how thick you want it to be – left to strain for several hours you a nice thickened yoghurt in the style of a greek yogurt, but leave it for a day or two and you have something more like cream cheese – still spreadable but able to be rolled into balls rolled through spices or herbs and preserved in olive oil and stored away in jars ready for your next platter or salad.
The other aspect that makes it so versatile is that it can be served savoury or sweet, set it to strain, then when you are ready to use you can add a little salt, lemon, chilli , spices … or sweeten it and add a little vanilla or lemon to serve with fresh berries or for a sweet sour element to your favourite chocolate desert, or any desert.
I don’t think I can call this a recipe it is more a simple technique. The most important thing is to begin with a good quality plain unsweetened yoghurt, then today as my palate runs to the savoury I will add all the flavours at the start, if you would like to use this for deserts as well leave it plain and add flavours when you are ready to use it.
LABNA / LABNAH
- 2 cups plain unsweetened yoghurt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Zest of half a lemon
- Optional 1 small finely chopped clove of garlic
- Sieve and a bowl that can fit in your refrigerator
- Fine muslin or cloth to strain yoghurt throughPlace your list items here
How beautiful and voluptuous does this look, creamy and irresistible.
This is a bit bulky in your refrigerator and if you have anything aromatic/smelly in there you will need to cover it so it doesn’t take on those smells.
The whey that collects in the bowl is nutritious and can be used – as a starter for lacto-fermentation, added to smoothies, or anywhere you would use milk. It stores well in the refrigerator and can even be drank straight. I will leave this up to you to decide.
Once made you can use the labna as you like. This week I have used it as above in Ottolenghis Roast tomato salad, and again in the pictured salad with herbs garlic and lemon and a mix of seasonal roast vegetables – it was delicious!
I will try and keep you posted over the next few weeks with ideas for how I am using the Labna/labnah.
Once again I wish you all a happy happy new year and good cooking.