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Labneh

Simple to make, labneh is a strained yoghurt cheese with a spreadable texture and a sour, yoghurty flavour. All that’s required for this recipe is yoghurt and salt – which encourages the whey to drain off – plus a large square of cheesecloth or muslin and a little patience. The only difference between labneh and Greek yoghurt is the addition of salt. I make labneh all year round but it is a particular family favourite at Christmas; I prepare it on Christmas Eve ready to serve the next morning with home-cured, smoked wild salmon and warm bagels. It is also delicious in salads or with ripe figs, or simply drizzled with olive or rapeseed oil.

Ingredients

300ml natural yoghurt (full- or low-fat)

A generous pinch of sea salt

Makes about 200g

Method

Lay a sheet of muslin or cheesecloth over a sieve and suspend it over a bowl. Pour the yoghurt into the cloth-lined sieve and stir in the salt. The whey will begin to leak out almost immediately.

(I sometimes tie the cloth in a knot and hang it from the tap over my kitchen sink with the bowl underneath. Every once in a while, I give the tied cloth a little squeeze to accelerate the draining of the whey, but this isn’t necessary unless you particularly enjoy the tactile element of it, as I do.)

Allow the yoghurt to drain overnight, either in the fridge or over the sink. The next day, you’ll have a lovely ball of creamy white cheese in the cloth. You can eat it immediately or keep it in the fridge in a sealed container, where it will continue to lose whey and thicken up more, for up to 5 days.

P.S. To give the labneh a whole new range of flavours, try stirring in or sprinkling on herbs, flowers, garlic or seasoning. Chive flowers, cracked black pepper and finely grated garlic (use a Microplane) work particularly well.

P.P.S. You can preserve the labneh by rolling it into small balls and immersing them immediately in good quality oil in a sterilised jar (see p.40) with a screw-top lid. The labneh will keep for up to a couple of months in the fridge, but you’ll most likely eat it within a week or two.