Palestinian brunch – Labneh (strained yogurt cheese)

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There are many delicious items eaten as part of a typical Palestinian breakfast. There is always olive oil, za’atar, bread and olives, labneh (strained yoghurt cheese) and some fresh fruit / vegetables.

Typical dishes eaten at breakfast time are hummus, falafel, ful medames, parsley and potato omelette, fried cheese and a typical chopped arabic salad.

Sage or mint tea is generally served with breakfast. Black tea with some fresh leaves in the pot. This is the one thing I cannot resist putting a bit of sugar in to.

A good way to use up any excess mint and sage you might have is to dry it out and store it in an airtight container ready to make tea.

Turkish coffee is something I like to have with my breakfast. To make this you need a special pot with a handle (called a cezve, which is sold on amazon, e-bay etc. 4 teaspoons of Turkish coffee, a couple of pinches of cardamom and a few tea spoons of sugar (for those who like it sweet). Qahwa Helwe.

Pour in cold water to near the top (but not too near!) Put the coffee pot on the cooker on medium heat and once it starts to boil up with lots of froth, take it off of the heat and stir the coffee with a spoon. Put it back on the heat and once it starts to boil up take it off and stir it again. I usually do this about 8 times. This is to ensure that it isn’t too bitty all the way through, it should be pretty smooth until you get to the inevitable dregs. Pour in to little coffee cups and serve.

Labneh (said Leb-an-ee) Strained yoghurt cheese

Ingredients

1 litre of high fat yoghurt (10% is possible) – cow or sheep milk yoghurt will work best. Goat would work but will require more straining
4 tsp salt
Sieve and kitchen towel or cheese cloth.

Method

Add the salt to the yoghurt and stir it thoroughly.

If you are using a sieve, place it over a bowl with the kitchen towel inside and pour the yoghurt onto it. Cover with another kitchen towel. Place on the counter to drip into the bowl for at least 24 hours.

If you are using the cheese cloth; put this in a bowl, tip the yoghurt into it (keep the sides of the cloth high to avoid spillage) , tie the top together in a knot. Loop the ‘handles’ of the cloth around the kitchen tap and hang it over in order to let the liquid drip down.

If you can’t hang yours over the sink, hang it with some kind of bowl underneath it.

If like me you have cats then you will have to put your labneh in the fridge to drip out, or put a plastic bag around the cheese cloth.

As above you need to let it drip for a minimum of 24 hours. In the cheese cloth that time will dry it out very well.

If using the sieve dry it out for 24 hours out of the fridge and another 24 hours in the fridge.

It is ready to eat then. Make a well in the middle, sprinkle za’atar and drizzle some labneh. It will keep in the fridge for 3 weeks or so.

Preserving Labneh

You will need a kilner jar.

If you would like to preserve your labneh (by this method it can last indefinitely. I ate some my Dad found in the back of a cupboard, which was 7 years old and it still tasted great!

clear a shelf in the fridge. Take a baking tray and line it with kitchen towel.

Make sure your hands are extremely clean for this process and also that you use boiling soapy water to wash your jar thoroughly.

Take the labneh and separate it in to pieces. Eventually you will want to roll them into balls so bear that in mind when separating it (golf ball is around the right size but bigger or smaller is also fine!).

Place on the lined tray in the fridge and let it dry for 24 hours more in the fridge.

Then roll the pieces into smooth balls. Place in the jar. You can also add in some dried herbs, chills, lemon. Pour olive oil into the jar to cover the balls and seal.

The taste of the labneh changes over time. It is interesting to try it after one month and then a year to see. The taste becomes a lot more tangy and rich. Never put your hands in the jar to remove the balls; use a clean spoon to avoid contamination.

Roll in za’atar and serve drizzled with olive oil.

Labneh uses

It is great instead of cream cheese (and healthier). Great in a sandwich; try labneh, pickles, tomatoes and fried halloumi on brown bread (one of my favourites).

Eat it for breakfast with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, mix it with yoghurt to make a rich base for a tzatziki, dollop on roasted vegetables and as part of a salad dressing.

Very versatile indeed.

Sahten! (means 2 healths) or enjoy your meal!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Hawys says:

    This is awesome!

    Like

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