I first tried Labneh in the desert town of Deir-e-zor in Syria some 18 years back. At that time I was used to just Mozarella and Cheddar and the Indian cottage cheese called Paneer. So, this was a whole new experience for me. The sour tangy taste coupled with spices intrigued me. Basically it had the consistency of cream cheese with the sourness of yogurt. It was served with their Mezze, or with their chargrilled meats. In some restaurants it had coarse salt and garlic pounded into it giving it a very unusual kick. Raw garlic in cheese? It was a flavour I would never forget!
Having only seen it commercially (then available at every grocery store) I never really bothered to find out how it was made even though I did have some Syrian friends. It was only when I left the Middle East after a whole decade that I started missing it. Since then I have made it at home numerous times and have improvised it with Indian spices like chilli powder and cumin and the Australian Dukkah! I have also made them into balls to resemble the bocconcini and marinated them in olive oil.
They are very versatile. Use them as a dip, spread on your sandwiches, eat them on their own and serve with any main course. My recipe is a bit involving as I make my own yogurt and I would recommend you do so to get the most probiotics. It tastes better too than any store bought yogurt.
Home made yogurt ( if you can’t then use Greek yogurt) 1kg
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt (probably 1 tsp)
Dukkah 5 tbsp
Chilli powder + Cumin powder + black salt ( 1tbsp each mixed )
Add salt to the yogurt and stir well. Pour into a cheese cloth with a bowl to drip into. Hang in the fridge especially in the summer for upto 24 hrs.
Throw the whey. The yogurt will now look like cheese. With oiled hands make small round balls. Put on plate and refrigerate them for an hour.
Now they are aready to be spiced up. Roll a few in dukkah and the others in the chilli powder mixture. Put them separately in each jar and top with olive oil. Refrigerte. Use within a week. Makes 15-18 Labneh Cheese Balls that will delight your family and friends!
This is one of my favourite chutneys. Fiery red and tangy. It goes with any savoury snack and of course best with Indian fermented savoury pancakes called Dosa. I think I have been eating this for as long as I can remember. It used to be too tangy for me but as years rolled by I started loving it more and more! The chillies can be increased or decreased as per your tolerance levels! I have made many variations since then but the simple plain old way of making it the way my mum used to make is still the best!
So here goes!
1 red onion chopped
2 whole tomatoes chopped
2 red dry chillies
a tsp of mustard
few sprigs of curry leaves
salt to taste
2 tbs coconut oil + 1 tsp for tempering
a teaspoon of tamarind paste
a clove of garlic
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion and saute until pink. Add garlic and tomatoes and the red chillies. Turn off heat. Add few leaves of the curry leaf. Leave a few for tempering. Once mixture is cooled, grind with salt and tamarind paste. It should be a fine paste.
Temper it now. Heat a tsp of oil or use the oil left after sauteeing. Add mustard until it splutters and the curry leaves. Add to Tomato Chutney. Stores in fridge for a week. Serves as many or as little as you want!
It isn’t common to make chutney out of tender coconut flesh. But the creamy taste and texture of this Coconut chutney is simply divine. I always find it difficult to save some for chutney whenever I buy these tender green coconuts. There is a mad scramble to drink the water then scoop the flesh out to eat. Most often I have to hide a bit to use next morning in chutney! It is a really melt in the mouth experience. Aside from their wonderful taste and thirst quencher, coconut water and flesh is very nutritious with various minerals and vitamins.
This chutney is made the usual way like other coconut chutneys. Just replace it with tender coconut flesh. Depending on how much quanity of green tender coconuts flesh, you are able to scoop, you might need 1 or 2 coconuts
1 or 2 tender coconut’s flesh
2 green chillies
1 tbsp oil
1tsp mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1tsp tamarind pulp
3 tbsp roasted chana dal (available in indian shops) optional
Grind all together except the mustard seeds, curry leaves and oil. Add water as you go. For tempering, heat oil , then add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add to chutney. Serve with any snack.
Polenta was something I had never bought or used. I would see it on the shelves and always wondered if I should get some and try. It always looked lovely, yellow and bright like sunshine. Once cooked it turns even more yellow, really like a beautiful day! Other flours would be white, brown or grey. It was only when I became gluten intolerant that I ventured to adapt gluten free flours.
Polenta, if you don’t know is cornmeal. You can substitute it in most recipes which ask for semolina and whenever you want to make gluten free dishes. Polenta bites are so easy to make. They have a melt in the mouth taste. Creamy and yummy! This is my favourite recipe from Dr.Sue Shepherd’s book Low Fodmap recipes. Your party will be a hit! Besides they go well in lunch boxes or as a snack!
1 cup polenta
3 cups stock or water
1/3 cup olives chopped
30 gm butter
Few sprigs parsley chopped
½ cup parmesan
sprinkle of black pepper
Boil stock/water, add polenta, stir until thick. Add olives, butter and parsley and half the parmesan. Sprinkle the black pepper. Pour into a greased dish and let it set in fridge for an hour. Preheat oven to 180 C. Cut polenta into finger sized bites, sprinkle rest of parmesan and bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or chilled.
We eat warm breakfasts in winter. They are filling and might look time consuming but sometimes I just keep batter in the fridge and just make them in the morning while making my tea. If you can make pancakes you can make chilas. Chilas are just the Indian savoury version of pancakes. Best of all they are protein packed and gluten free. And not just any kind of gluten free pancakes. They are protein packed pancakes. A great way to start your mornings. Handy for packing into school lunches too!
1.5 cups besan (gram flour, you could use chickpea flour too)
1 small onion chopped
1 small tomato chopped
Few sprigs coriander chopped
1 small green chilli chopped (optional)
Oi/ghee for cooking
Mix all the above ingredients except the oil/ghee in a bowl. It is slightly thicker than a pancake batter because of the chopped onions and tomatoes.
Heat a pan. With a ladle pour some in. Spread it. Put a few drops of oil/ghee around it. Flip when cooked one side. Cook the other side. They take longer to cook as they are thicker than pancakes. Best cooked on slow heat. Serve warm or cold with chutney!