Blessed Are The Cheesemakers

I’ve never really got the whole chocaholic thing – I like the stuff but I don’t actively seek it out and if I had to forego it forever it really wouldn’t bother me much.

Ask me to give up bread and cheese, however, and you’d have a fight on your hands.

Image of labneh smeared on bread

I take my hat off to cheese makers in general but in particular that new generation in the UK who have revitalised the industry by creating fabulous new cheeses and saving the old ones from extinction.

I’ve never had a burning desire to make it myself though, far too scientific and difficult. So it was with a sinking heart that I read this month’s Cheese, Please! challenge from @fromhomage.

Make a fresh cheese, she said. From scratch. Oh heck.

But I did and if I’d known how easy – and delicious – this particular cheese is, I’d have started years ago.

Labneh is an Arabic cream cheese made from strained yoghurt. Three days wrapped in cheesecloth (not you, the yoghurt) and drained in a sieve, followed by a few minutes mixing and rolling, and you have delectable little spheres of cheesy scrumptiousness that make a great lunch or starter.

Image of labneh balls in olive oil

Two Ways With Labneh

Ingredients:

500g of 2% fat Greek yoghurt

Salt

Harissa (buy ready made or click here for my recipe)

A big handful of fresh parsley, very finely chopped

The zest of a lemon

Za’atarย herb/spice blend (available from supermarkets or click here for a recipe)

Olive oil

Method:

Image of yoghurt draining in a cheesecloth-lined sieve

Line a sieve with cheesecloth and sit it over a deep bowl.

Dump in your yoghurt, preferably remembering to remove the piece of paper that sits on top of the pot if you don’t want to be here until next week. (Yes, gentle reader, I forgot. Do as I say, not as I do.)

Wrap the cheesecloth over the top, sit a saucer on it and put one of your heaviest tins on top. Put the whole thing in the fridge and forget about it for three days.

Image of tin weighting down the yoghurt

Then put the strained yoghurt in a bowl, discarding the whey that’s drained out. Yes, I know ricotta is made from whey but there are only so many hours in the day and there wasn’t that much whey anyway.

Anyway … add salt to taste then divide your labneh into two.

Roll one half into small balls. Put a big handful of za’atar on a plate and roll the labneh balls in it to coat.

Image of labneh being coated in za'atar

Mix a good dollop of harissa into the second half of your labneh.Taste and see if it’s spicy enough and if not, add more. If your harissa is very runny you may need to strain this half of the labneh again, but mine was just stiff enough to roll.

Image of labneh mixed with spicy harissa

Form into balls, then roll in a mixture of finely chopped parsley and lemon zest.

Image of labneh balls coated in za'atar and the parsley/lemon zest mix

If you’re not eating the labneh straight away, place the balls gently into a preserving jar and cover with olive oil. They’ll keep in the fridge this way for several days at least.

Eat spread onto good bread, either on their own or as part of a mixed mezze.

Image of za'atar-coated labneh spread on bread

Check out the other entries in this month’s Cheese, Please! challenge here:

Fromage Homage

16 thoughts on “Blessed Are The Cheesemakers

  1. Oh wow, this sounds delicious. I’ve never tried making labneh, although I have a recipe I eye from time to time. Does it have a slightly sour edge? I quite fancy that, as some of the ricotta-type fresh cheeses can end up a bit creamy and bland. Delicious. Thanks for sharing it with Cheese, Please!

    • Thank you. I think the sourness quotient would depend on how sharp your yoghurt was. Mine was Total which is quite creamy. But the labneh has a little more edge than regular cream cheese and the harissa, herbs and za’atar really lift it. As you can see, I’m a convert!

  2. Pingback: March’s Cheese, Please! Recipe Blog Challenge – Fresh Cheese | Fromage Homage

  3. Making labneh is one of those things I’ve always meant to get around to doing but never quite seem to manage. I love the idea of adding the harissa to the cheese itself rather than just keeping the flavour round the outside.

  4. I love labneh, but usually pair mine with dill. I bet the harissa and the za’atar are wonderful too. I also have a post coming up that I’d entitled blessed are the cheesemakers. I bet there’ll be a few of them this month on Cheese, Please! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. What a great post, lovely mix of herbs! It really is surprising how easy this is to make isn’t it? Did you keep checking on it in the fridge? I did when I made it once… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Pingback: March’s Cheese, Please! Challenge Round-Up – Fresh Cheese | Fromage Homage

  7. Pingback: National Vegetarian Week | Mrs Portly's Kitchen

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