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Strained yoghurt is a thing of beauty. It turns thin, sour dairy into a smooth, spreadable almost cheese-like product.
It’s widely made and eaten across Levant, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Central and South Asian cuisines. Because much of the liquid whey is strained during the process it’s more stable to cook with and less prone to curdling at high temperatures.
It also makes up the base for excellent tzatziki, labneh spread, or a probiotic dessert when used for the popular Gujarati yoghurt dish, shrikhand.
This stuff is wildly easy to make at home, all you need is a clean Chux cloth (or cheesecloth, or even just a real clean bit of loosely-woven cotton fabric), a colander, a bowl and some plain yoghurt.
I’m trying my hand at labneh, sometimes called yoghurt cheese, which is strained further than yoghurt destined for shrikhand or tzatziki.
How to make labneh
There really are no rules or ratios here, except for that the yoghurt will shrink down to about a half or a third when it becomes labneh as all the whey drains off. You can make a few spoonfuls or a whole kilo of it.
In this instance, I used two cups of yoghurt. Make sure it’s natural and plain, ideally without added thickeners or stabilisers.
Mix in a pinch of salt to season, then spoon the yoghurt into a cloth-lined sieve placed over a bowl.
Fold the cloth over to cover the yoghurt and place the whole thing in the fridge for anywhere between 6 and 24 hours. The longer you go, the firmer it will become.
The next day it’ll be quite firm and should easily come away from the cloth in one piece.
To store, either roll into balls with oiled hands and place in jars under oil or just turn it out into an airtight container. My migrant/farming upbringing wants me to tell you it’ll keep for a month, but it’s best to consume within a week or so.
Serve however you like – for a crowd-pleasing snack drizzle with oil and dukkah and mop it all up with some fresh flatbread.
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