Labneh is a beautiful soft cheese simply made from strained yoghurt that can be eaten with pretty much everything and is a particularly good friend to rich and spicy mezze dishes. The first time I tasted it I was sat at a little linen-covered table on the edge of a vegetable garden in Amirim, an entirely vegetarian organic agricultural community set in the hills overlooking the glittering Sea of Galilee. Served on an azure blue plate, the pure white cheese was drizzled with local honey and accompanied with small baskets of freshly baked bread, crushed pistachio nuts and sun-warmed figs fresh from the tree that shimmered hazy waves of warm light over the table. Like all delicate ingredients, labneh takes on flavours exceptionally well and is stunning stirred through with a mixture of finely chopped fresh herbs and garlic or served with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of za’atar. Here I’ve stirred in some zhoug, a punchy and fragrant chilli and herb relish from Yemen which is very popular in Israel. Served with warm flatbread fresh from the oven, this makes for a perfect breakfast or as the precursor to a long lazy lunch in the sun.
Serves 4 as a side dish
For the labneh:
500g of Greek yoghurt
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Generous pinch of sea salt
1 spring onion, finely sliced, to serve
A sprinkling of dukkah, to serve
For the zhoug:
25g coriander, roughly chopped
25g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1-3 green chillies (depending upon their size and heat), roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp Raphael’s Cretan extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
2 tbsp cold water
How I make it
To make the labneh, simply combine all the ingredients and line a sieve with a square of muslin. Place the sieve over a bowl and tip in the mixed yoghurt. Bring the corners of the muslin together and loosely tie. Leave to drain in a cool place for three to four hours (the longer you leave it, the thicker it will become). Keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days.
For the zhoug, whizz all the ingredients together in a mini processor until you have the consistency of pesto. This will keep for about a week in an airtight container and it freezes well.
To serve, place the labneh in a dish and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Spoon over the zhoug and finish with the spring onions and dukkah.
For more information about Raphael’s Mediterranean Deli products, please click this link.