MELT! is an accessible, informative, and entertaining cooking with cheese book i collaboratively contributed to with BBQ legend Bob Hart. Available here
Below is just one of the delicious recipe lifted from the MELT!
(Photo: Dean Cambray)
Labneh – a silky yoghurt cheese you can create in your own kitchen – is a foundation of Lebanese cooking, and is also deliciously simple. And if you choose to make it from your own home-made yoghurt, as we suggest here, so much the better. Although a good, pot-set natural yoghurt works brilliantly. We were taught to make labneh, and the shanklish that follows, by the legendary Marwa Makool from Melbourne’s Oasis Bakery. – Bob Hart
1 litre whole milk (ewe’s milk, if possible)
2 tbs natural ewe’s milk yoghurt
EV olive oil
In a saucepan, bring the milk gently to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to body warmth, or until you can easily tolerate it to the touch. Stir the yoghurt into half a cup of the warm milk, allowing it to dissolve fully, and then add to the rest of the milk and stir well. Cover the mixture and leave to stand in a warm place for 24 hours. Place a clean thin tea towel or – better still – muslin or layered cheesecloth in a large strainer.
Salt the yoghurt mixture to taste and pour into the strainer over a bowl.
Tie the material at the top to enclose the yoghurt mixture, but leave it in the strainer in a bowl and keep it in the fridge for 12 hours, or until the desired texture is achieved, discarding the liquid that drips into the bowl. (Alternatively, you can hang the wrapped yoghurt over a bowl, but few fridges will easily accommodate that technique. Also, remember that extra time means a firmer texture.)
To serve, spread the labneh in a bowl or on a plate, sprinkle with zaatar and drizzle with EV olive oil.
For a lively variation, once you have prepared your labneh, but before you serve it, try this: wearing a pair of disposable gloves, dip your fingers into olive oil and roll the labneh into small balls. Place these in a container with olive oil and add dried chilli flakes to the oil. These will keep in oil for up to three months, getting even better, day by day.
CHEESE NOTES Yoghurt is not a cheese. It is milk thickened through the use of a bacterial starter rather than rennet, and the whey is not separated and drained off as in cheese-making. But don’t let that stop you making, and eating, labneh. Natural yoghurt made from ewe’s milk is the traditional choice for this recipe. It contains almost twice as much fat and calcium as cow’s milk, and its rich, silky texture balances beautifully with the lemony acidity of natural yoghurt. – Will Studd