Labaneh is a traditional Middle Eastern food, made from strained yogurt. It can be served as a spread on pita, as an accompaniment to moujedra, or, as we discovered last week, eaten on injera in place of traditional Ethiopian soft cheeses! The name “labaneh” evokes the white colour of the cheese, since the Hebrew and Arabic sounds “L-B-N” are the root for the word for white (lavan in Hebrew). If anyone has more information on the etymology, please let me know. I love languages and linguistics, and am always interested.
I have heard about labaneh for years, and always thought I should try it, but had never tasted it until a few weeks ago. We have a friend who is a first-rate cook, and who specializes in foods from his native Israel. At a recent party at his new house, he served, among other delicious foods, his freshly-made labaneh, with two different types of za’atar. Now it was in front of me, so I had to try it. And once I tried it, I knew I had to make it.
There are many recipes out there, and most are quite similar. This is a simple process; only the finer details differ. I will write out our friend’s recipe, since this is what we did, and it worked beautifully. This version produces a softer cheese, perfect for spreading. To get a firmer cheese that can be rolled into balls and covered in olive oil, increase the draining time.
- 750ml Greek yogurt, 6% milk fat
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Stir well to combine. Line a bowl or colander with four or five layers of cheesecloth. Tie the ends to form a sack, and let hang from a cupboard knob or someplace similar for 5 hours. Make sure there is a bowl or something underneath the sack to collect the liquid!
At the end of 5 hours (or more, if you want a firmer cheese), unwrap the ball, and serve! This is lovely with a sprinkle of za’atar and some good olive oil. Enjoy.