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!
Sometimes we just do the same things the way we have been doing it for years! It is hard to change habits, learn new ways and to discover and find efficient ways to do things. But when we do, it is like an “aha” moment and we wonder why we didn’t think of it before! It is the same with chutneys!
We just make them the same way we are used to and with the same ingredients too! I grow a lot of greens in my garden and just did some mix and match to come up with this chutney that is so delicious and full of vitamins. It is a superfood storehouse! I know you won’t probably find these greens at your grocery shop but don’t be disheartened. This is an inspiration that a small pot of these herbs and weeds are more nutritious than the expensive few day old greens you bring from your supermarket. So give it a try and plant them. You will wonder why you never did it sooner!
a handful of nasturtium leaves (i never planted it, so it just grows every winter on its own!)
a handful of arugula (rocket)
few sprigs of brahmi ( this is a bitter herb and great for memory) so use sparingly
a small bunch of mint
any other edible weed like sorrell or chickweed ( I used chickweed)
an inch of ginger
salt to taste
juice of 1-2 lemons
few green chillies (as much as you can handle)
Blitz all in a blender. Your chutney is ready. Goes well with most appetizers. Eat in on sandwiches with cucumber and tomatoes. As a side dish to any savoury item. Make raita with it, just add few tsp of chutney to yogurt and mix. Endless ways to use! Store in fridge in a glass jar for upto a week.
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.