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!