All it took was one trip to Lebanon a few years ago to leave me officially obsessed with labneh. This creamy cross between cheese and yoghurt is everywhere in Lebanon – generally served up to be shared before meals smeared on pita bread. What I didn’t realise is how easy it is to make labneh yourself. It just takes a little bit of time to make this addictive Middle Eastern cheese.
|The finished labneh|
I was shown how to make labneh last week by Tony Panetta, executive chef at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Tony took out the silver medal at this year’s Royal Melbourne Show for the house made labneh that he serves up at the convention centre so he really does know his stuff. He’s incredibly passionate about using Victorian produce and uses this to make pretty much everything for the convention centre in house. Tony even makes his own yoghurt which he then uses to make the labneh, but I’m not suggesting you go that far so this is just the recipe for labneh.
|Head chef Tony Panetta explains how to make labneh|
450g natural yoghurt
A few sprigs of fresh oregano
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, peeled
|Pouring the yoghurt into the cheese cloth lined|
1. Line a deep bowl with cheesecloth or muslin and pour the yoghurt into the cloth, bring together the edges to form a tight bundle and tie securely with string. (If you can’t get your hands on cheesecloth or muslin I’ve heard of people using the really thick kitchen towel quite successfully for this).
2. Hang the bundle over a bowl or put it in a sieve over a bowl and leave for two to three days.
3. The yoghurt is ready when most of the liquid has drained out and the remaining yogurt is thick with a firm texture. Remove the labneh from the cloth and use a spoon or ice-cream scoop to scoop the labneh into balls.
4. Place the balls of labneh into a sterilised jar along with the fresh herbs, garlic cloves and a sprinkling of sea salt. Then fill the jar with olive oil.
The labneh will keep for about three weeks. Serve it simply with crusty bread.
|The labneh ready to be scooped into balls|
Gourmet Chick was a guest of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for a labneh making class. It was so interesting to explore what is the biggest kitchen in the Southern Hemisphere. I particularly loved the giant salad bowl that is used to toss and dress salads.