from one generation to the next
The versatility of yoghurt is infinite. It adds softness to flatbreads and richness to cakes. It’s natural lactic acidity is the perfect foil for spicy curries and tajines and spoonfuls dolloped on top of pancakes and puddings add an alluring a touch of decadence. Yoghurt is luscious as the base for a summertime ice-cream, is indispensable in smoothies and adds a savoury creamy element to dressings and dips.
I could rave for hours about the usefulness and versatility of yoghurt, but let’s be clear, it’s the tangy natural product made by innoculating whole milk with live cultures I’m talking about.
We’ve been eating a lot of food based on the flavours of the Middle East lately, so it was inevitable that I make labneh, essentially natural yoghurt thickened by draining off the whey. I usually drain my yoghurt for about 12 hours which leaves the yoghurt mass a spreading consistency similar to cream cheese. I love it’s fresh acidity plain, and enjoy it for breakfast spread on sourdough toast and topped with sweet juicy tomato or cucumber, a grinding of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
A little honey or maple syrup and a scraping of vanilla bean beaten into labneh makes it the perfect substitute for fresh whipped cream with fruity desserts. Add some coarsely ground almonds and it’s a wonderful dessert in it’s own right, especially with sweet ripe D’anjou pears.
From my recent batch of labneh, I tried out an interesting and totally delicious dip from Greg & Lucy Malouf’s book of modern Middle Eastern vegetarian food, “New Feast.” Turkish-style carrot labneh is simply shredded carrot briefly cooked in oil and butter, seasoned with lime and chilli and then beaten into the labneh. It’s both sweet and savoury, very very delicious.
I’ve made a couple of minor changes to the original recipe.
to make labneh:
Line a sieve with a square of muslin or a piece of new Chux cloth. Spoon 1kg of natural unthickenedyoghurt into the strainer. Stand it over a deep bowl or jug. Leave the yoghurt in the refrigerator to drip for a minimum of 4 hours. The longer you leave the yoghurt the thicker it will become. The whey that drains off can be used to make pancakes or used in bread baking.
Turkish-style carrot labneh
20g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
150g coarsely grated carrots
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Turkish red pepper flakes
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
225g labneh strained for 12 hours
1 tablespoon cream
Heat the butter and oil in a wide pan, add the carrot and asafoetida and sweat slowly for 5-7 minutes or until the carrot softens.
Stir in the salt, pepper, chilli and lime zest. Set aside to cool.
Put the labneh into a bowl with the cream and cooled carrots then beat it with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Adjust the seasonings to taste.
The umami flavours will develop if the carrot labneh is chilled overnight although it’s best to enjoy this delicious spread at room temperature.